- Daunting Dubai Dunes Even More Technical And Demanding In 2023
Dubai, UAE, 08th November 2023: Crews are putting final touches to their preparations for one of the most daunting off-road challenges of the year in the Dubai International Baja next weekend.
It’s the final round of both the FIA and FIM World Cup series for baja vehicles and the first of three days of epic dune adventures begins with the unique night time prologue in Dubai Festival City on Friday evening.
After that, the top quality field heads into the Al Qudra Desert on Saturday for the Al-Futtaim -Toyota Leg One when the unrelenting nature of the Dubai dunes will challenge competitors and organisers alike.
The Al-Futtaim Group and Al-Futtaim Motors are deeply embedded in the final round of the FIA and FIM International Baja World Cups through the location of the event headquarters and service park at Dubai Festival City and the extensive logistical support of Al-Futtaim Toyota.
The arduous challenges of the rally for competitors, vehicles and the organisers means the assistance of Al-Futtaim Toyota in supplying support vehicles is a key component in the smooth running of the event.
Toyota’s heritage in world and Middle Eastern rallying is unparalleled and reflected not only in today’s list of Toyota equipped drivers among the pre-event favourites, but can be also be traced back to an incredibly successful legacy in the region’s motorsport. Former star driver Mohammed Ben Sulayem -FIA President and 14-time MERC Rally Champion shone in the regional series and back in the 80s proved unbeatable behind the wheel of a Toyota Celica which till today remains one of the most precious cars to him.
Fast forwarding 23 years, the organisers of the Dubai International Baja follow their former President Ben Sulayem’s steps to once again rely on the renowned reliability and off-road capability of Toyota vehicles including Land Cruisers to enable event officials to perform key time-sensitive tasks in the most challenging desert terrain.
The dunes of Dubai are unique in nature and almost infamous for the exacting toll they take on competitors as well as vehicles. While not amongst the highest dunes in the Middle East, the relentless frequency of rises and troughs is tremendously challenging and is why even recording a finish in the event is a considerable achievement.
And this year it’ll be more technical. While there are slightly fewer kilometres the route is more technical and, particularly for the bikes, there are special considerations around strategy where some bikes will be able to refuel more than once and others will only do it between the stages which will make it interesting tactically.
The Emirates Motorsport Organization (EMSO) event kicks off on Friday with the Prologue at 18:20 which will establish the early classification and the starting order for Saturday’s Al-Futtaim Leg 1. That first leg over the daunting dunes of Al Qudra desert includes 336.5km of driving and riding of which 170km are timed special stages.
Sunday’s Leg 2 is a similarly epic desert adventure with another 170km of timed competition in a total of 333km of driving and riding. All told the competitors will have 673km under their wheels by the conclusion of the event at 7pm on Sunday evening.
Last year’s winner Yazeed Al Rajhi of Saudi Arabia from the Toyota Overdrive squad is chasing back-to-back victories with teammate Juan Cruz Yacopini of Argentina among the top-quality entry. They will face off against off-road superstar and champion-elect Nasser Al-Attiyah with his new Prodrive Hunter.
While the T4 title has already been claimed the T3 category is still up for grabs with Meshari Al-Thefiri holding the points advantage over closest rival Otavio Sousa Leite in the duel for the FIA title for T3 lightweight prototype machines.
The motorcycle entry features a fascinating three-way scrap for FIM Bajas World Cup Honours between the UAE’s local hero Mohammed Al Balooshi (KTM) and Portuguese riders David Megre (Kawasaki) and Pedro Bianchi Prata (Honda).
Local rider Abdulaziz Al Ahli is looking to be amongst the championship contenders Kevin Giroud of France and Saudi riders Haitham Al Tuwayjiri and Hani Al Noumesi in the battle for honours on the quads.
Jacques Brent, Managing Director of Al-Futtaim Toyota and Lexus: “Al-Futtaim Automotive is deeply committed to supporting the UAE’s motorsports community. Through our newly formed Motorsport Division, our mission is to uphold the spirit of adventure, fair competition and the pursuit of excellence that are found at illustrious sporting events such as the Dubai International Baja. We are therefore proud and honoured to once again play host to this iconic race at Dubai Festival City, situated on one of Dubai’s most famous waterfronts.
“In a nation that is so passionate about motoring, Toyota has become an integral part of the automotive and off-roading culture of the UAE. Our partnership with the Dubai International Baja enables us to build on Toyota’s historic ties with the region’s sporting community and continue a long and well-established heritage of Toyota in Middle Eastern rallying.”
Khalid Ben Sulayem, President of the Emirates Motorsport Organization (EMSO):
“The event takes competitors to the root of Dubai City traveling through the desert. This desert is so tough that many people don’t expect it. It’s not just how hard it is on the machine, but also on the drivers.
“For us as organisers, the assistance of Al-Futtaim Toyota and the wonderfully capable, efficient and reliable vehicles we operate during the event is absolutely key to ensuring the smooth running of Dubai International Baja.”
The Dubai International Baja takes place under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Crown Prince of Dubai and chairman of the Dubai Executive Council.
In cooperation with Automotive partner Al-Futtaim Toyota, Dubai Festival City, Energy Partner ENOC, and Al Ain Water. The rally is also supported by the Dubai Government and its entities Dubai Police, RTA, Dubai Sports Council, Dubai Municipality, Dubai Customs, Dubai Civil Defense, Wild Affairs Region Department, Dubai Media and Dubai Sport TV.
The seventh edition of this desert classic event kicks off in Festival City in Dubai on Friday, November 10th, with the evening prologue stage offering spectators a chance to see all of the competitors in action ahead of Saturday and Sunday’s cross-country legs.