Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah & Mathieu Baumel top bumper Dubai International Baja entry

Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah & Mathieu Baumel top bumper Dubai International Baja entry

 

Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel secured their respective 2023 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas titles in Portugal recently and the duo head an impressive 38-car FIA field for the Dubai International Baja.


The Qatari switched from Toyota Gazoo Racing to drive a Prodrive Hunter after the Rally of Morocco and the two-day finale to the FIA World Cup through the Al-Qudra Desert will be the second opportunity for the Qatari to test the Hunter in a competitive environment before the 2024 Dakar Rally.


Overdrive Racing Toyota Hiluxes and Al-Attiyah’s former team-mates dominate the upper reaches of the top 10 on the entry list. Argentina’s Juan Cruz Yacopini and co-driver Dani Oliveras have an excellent opportunity to claim the runner-up spots in the Drivers’ and Co-drivers’ Championships. They trail Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Timo Gottschalk by just four points and a strong finish by either crew could be sufficient to round off the season behind Al-Attiyah and Baumel.


With Poland’s Krzysztof Holowczyz and Lukasz Kurzeja absent from the entry list, Portugal’s João Ferreira is best placed to cause an upset and snatch second spot with co-driver Filipe Palmeiro. Ferreira leads Al-Rajhi by a point and Yacopini by five although he will tackle the Dubai-based event in a T4 Can-Am Maverick X3 instead of the Mini JCW Rally Plus in which he won the recent Baja Portalegre 500 in Portugal.


Kuwait’s Meshari Al-Thefiri and Brazil’s Otavio Sousa Leite and Cristiano De Sousa Batista still have a mathematical chance of finishing second, but that may be unrealistic bearing in mind the number of T1 and T1+ cars in the field.


Adding weight to Toyota’s challenge are Denis Krotov and Ronan Chabot and their respective co-drivers Konstantin Zhiltsov and Gilles Pillot. Toyota Gazoo Racing announced a late entry for the Dubai event this week and American Seth Quintero switches from the FIA T3 category and will make his debut with the team alongside co-driver Dennis Zenz before driving a Toyota GR DKR Hilux at the 2024 Dakar Rally.


Local female star Aliyyah Koloc teams up with South African co-driver Riann Greyling in her Buggyra ZM Racing-run Red-Lined Revo T1+ in a field of T1 cars that includes regular Arab drivers Mansour Al-Helai, Khalid Al-Feraihi and Abdullah Al-Rabban. The prototype Revo T1+ was built in South Africa and is powered by a Ford Mustang 5.0-litre V8 engine.


The event is also the final round of the FIA Middle East Cup for Cross-Country Bajas, following the cancellation of the Jordan Baja. Khalid Al-Feraihi arrives in Dubai with a three-point cushion over Hamad Al-Harbi and a lead of eight points over Yasir Seaidan, with Al-Feraihi’s French co-driver Sébastien Delaunay going head-to-head with Dmytro Tsyro for the Co-drivers’ title.


The Saudi Arabian duo of Ibrahim Al-Muhanna and Ahmed Al-Shegawi will tussle for Middle East Baja Cup T2 honours. Muhanna drives a Nissan Patrol and is tied on 73 points with his Toyota Prado rival after a win and a second place apiece at the first two rounds in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. 


Al-Thefiri and Leite to fight for T3 title

Al-Thefiri heads to the UAE with a 20-point cushion over Leite in the FIA T3 rankings and the outcome of a season-long battle between the SRT Can-Am driver and his South Racing Can-Am rival could go down to the final kilometres in the desert. Al-Thefiri needs to potentially drop his lowest score of 13 with five rounds counting from seven to decide the title following the loss of the event in Jordan.


A total of 11 crews will compete in T3 and competition to the leading duo comes from the likes of Saudi Arabian female driver Dania Akeel in an R-X Sport Can-Am and the recently-crowned FIA T4 champion Cristiano de Sousa Batista, who steps up from T4 to drive a South Racing machine in the T3 category.


Yasir Seaidan heads a quartet of Arab drivers that also includes Hamad Al-Harbi and Akeel’s team-mate and former MERC front-runner Rashid Al-Ketbi. Seaidan trails Al-Harbi (Can-Am) by 13 points in the FIA Middle East Baja Cup’s T3 category.


South Racing runs a couple of additional Can-Ams for Equador’s Bradley Salazar and Paraguay’s Andrea Lafarja Bittar and Buggyra ZM Racing has entered a Can-Am DV21 for Czech racer Josef Machacek.

 

Baja Portalegre winner Ferreira tops T4 entry

While Ferreira and Palmeiro still have a mathematical chance of finishing second or third in the overall Drivers’ and Co-drivers’ Championships, they also head a field of 11 T4 crews and revert to driving a South Racing Can-Am in Dubai. This is the machine in which they will contest the full 2024 FIA World Rally-Raid Championship (W2RC).


Main competition comes from Spain’s Ricardo Ramilo and four Quaddy Racing Yamaha YXZ 1000R SSs in the hands of Emirati Arif Al-Zarouni, Qatar’s Ahmed Al-Kuwari and Abdullah Al-Khelaifi and Italian Amerigo Ventura.


There are additional South Racing entries for Poland’s Aleksander Szustkowski and German racer Wastl Bayer, an SRT Can-Am for Kuwait’s Salem Al-Dhafeeri and Maverick XRS Turbo RRs for Saudi Arabia’s Maha Al-Hameli and Italian Stefano Marrini.


Three drivers will battle it out for T4 glory in the FIA Middle East Cup for Cross-Country Bajas. Al-Dhafeeri heads to the Al-Qudra Desert with a lead of nine points over Al-Hameli. Victory for Ahmed Al-Kuwari could give him a chance of snatching the title but the Qatari trails Al-Dhafeeri by 29 points.


This year’s Dubai International Baja is based at the Dubai Festival City Mall and features a compact three-day format with 339.45 competitive kilometres in a route of 675.80km through the Al-Qudra desert.


After a two-kilometre opening stage at Festival City on Friday evening (November 10), the first selective section of 168.40km starts from Al-Marmoun and is split into two parts (83.85km and 84.55km) by a neutralisation zone.


The second 169.05km stage on Saturday (November 12) passes through the Al-Qudra Desert and is split into two competitive sections of 84.90km and 84.15km.  

 

2023 Dubai International Baja (leading entries):

200. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Mathieu Baumel (AND)    Prodrive Hunter
201. Juan Cruz Yacopini (ARG)/Dani Oliveras (ESP)     Toyota Hilux Overdrive
202. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Timo Gottschalk (DEU)     Toyota Hilux Overdrive
203. Denis Krotov (KYR)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (ISR)    Toyota Hilux Overdrive
204. Seth Quintero (USA)/Dennis Zenz (DEU)    Toyota Hilux Overdrive
205. Aliyyah Koloc (ARE)/Riann Greyling (ZAF)    Red-Lined Revo T1+
206. Ronan Chabot (FRA)/Gilles Pillot (FRA)    Toyota Hilux Overdrive
207. Khaled Al-Feraihi (SAU)/Sébastien Delaunay (FRA)    Nissan Pick-Up
208. Mansour Al-Helai (ARE)/Khalid Al-Kendi (ARE)    Nissan Pick-Up
209. Abdullah Al-Rabban (QAT)/Tamer Al-Hijazeen (QAT)    Chevrolet LS3
 

Timelable of events:


Saturday, November 11      
SS2A Al-Marmoun-Al Qudra Desert (83.85km)    09.56hrs
SS2B Al-Marmoun-Al Qudra Desert (84.55km)    11.10hrs approx.
      
Sunday, November 12      
SS3A Al-Qudra (84.90km)    08.56hrs
SS3B Al-Qudra (84.15km)    10.10hrs approx.
Podium finish, TBA    19.00hrs 
 


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