Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al Rajhi completed an emphatic second leg in Dubai to secure back-to-back Dubai International Baja wins and two FIA World Cup for Cross Country Bajas titles in a row.
Meanwhile, Polish rider Konrad Dabrowski took on the dunes of Dubai to come home second in the season finale, after a dramatic conclusion saw him crowned FIM Bajas World Cup champion ahead of favourites Mohammad Al Balooshi for the UAE and Portugal’s Fabio Magalhaes.
As we await official results from the FIA and FIM, the standings at the time of publication are provisional.
Leg 2 of the Dubai International Baja covered a total of 317km, with 196km of a technical Special Stage – the Toyota SS – as organisers Emirates Motorsports Organisation (EMSO) and Official Automotive Partner Al Futtaim-Toyota put on a spectacular season showdown.
“We’re very happy to have brought World Cup rallying back to Dubai,” said Khalid Ben Sulayem, President of the Emirates Motorsports Organization, ahead of the official podium prizegiving.
“The event has been a huge success and we are happy to see that the new format and new venue have brough so much excitement to the competition. It brings a lot of pride to see so many championship winners decided here, and it all adds to what has been an thrilling holiday weekend of celebration.”
The Dubai International Baja is perfectly situated to make or break title hopes, and the past two days of action have proved just that. With Strategic Partner Emirates National Oil Company Group (ENOC) keeping the action flowing, the contenders took to the course in search of championship honours.
Partnered by Dirk von Zitzewitz in a Toyota Hilux Overdrive, Yazeed Al-Rajhi recovered from a difficult first leg to win the final round of the 2022 FIA World Cup for Cross Country Bajas.
Returning to the same area between Al Qudra and Lisaili, but running in the opposite direction to Leg 1, Al-Rajhi conquered the new set of challenges presented by the unfamiliar route to retain his championship title.
Yazeed Al Rajhi said: “We enjoyed it so much. Dubai was awesome and now we want to win more. Every win is never enough. We always want more.”
Things were tight at the top of the T3 category as the drivers arrived in Dubai Festival City, and the drama continued in the Dubai International Baja, adding to the excitement of UAE National Day.
A strong showing from Dania Akeel saw the Saudi Arabian lead the way in the Dubai Baja, ahead of championship winner Fernando Alvarez, who secured the title at the Saudi Baja in November.
In the T4 class, it was a front three lock out for the Goczals, with Eryk coming out on top to win the category at the season-ending Dubai Baja. Winning the T4 title is Cristiano Batista, who crucially finished ahead of closest rival UAE’s Mshari Al-Thefiri after the day’s action.
In the bikes category, Tobias Ebster, lying in first overnight, kept a cool head to come through for the win overall at the Dubai International Baja, finishing third on course today.
Coming second in both legs of the Dubai Baja was Konrad Dabrowski. His consistency reaped its reward, as the Pole clinched championship glory with the third podium finish of his 2022 campaign putting him to the top of the FIM Bajas World Cup standings.
“I am pretty happy with that,” Dabrowski said after crossing the line. “I ended up leading for most of the race so it was a really good practice ahead of the Dakar, especially on the bigger bike and I am glad I could compete against the other guys. I had to work hard and smart on a demanding race route, but it helped me get ready for Dakar.”
UAE’s Mohammad Al Balooshi demonstrated the resolve that kept him at the top of the championship standings for most of the season, recovering from mechanical issues in Leg 1 to take the win in Leg 2.
Also suffering from mechanical issues in the first leg was Magalhaes, as a gruelling Dubai Baja saw the Portuguese rider unable to compete in the second stage, dropping from second in the championship standings.
“I have mixed emotions,” said Mohammad Al Balooshi. “Yesterday I was a mess in the head [suffering illness]. I won the stage in my section today, but I lost the world title, so it is disappointing. But it’s OK. I was upset but I am over it now. Now we go on to Dakar to represent the UAE and hopefully do my best.”
Dabrowski also came through to take the Junior Bajas World Cup title, with a comfortable championship lead after two wins and two second-place finishes in his dominant performance this season.
On the quads, UAE’s Abdulaziz Ahli has cause for much celebration as he charged to the front on the holiday weekend, winning the Baja ahead of championship winner, Abdalmajeed Al-Khulaifi.
Saudi’s Al-Khulaifi did enough in the season finale to secure the title having built a considerable lead with two wins at the start of his campaign.
Abdalmajeed Al-Khulaifi said: “We finished the last stage of the race with a specific strategy, we got to the last point without putting pressure on our selves, eventually we got to the top and won championship”
FIM WOMEN Bajas World Cup Winner, Mirjam Pol, stormed past the competition in her class, winning today’s stage and the race overall. Adding the Dubai International Baja to her ever-growing list of achievements this year, the Dutch rider topped the 2022 FIM WOMEN Bajas World Cup standings.
Mirjam Pol said: “Yesterday we struggled but today we went in the opposite direction, and this is how it is meant to be. It was flowing. Yesterday I was all on my own but today I had so many fights with the others. I enjoyed it a lot. I am happy to finish it is a very nice end to the season.”
In the Veteran category, 2021 FIM Bajas Trophy winner Pedro Bianchi-Prata finished second in his class today to make it two veteran titles in a row for the Portuguese competitor.
Pedro Bianchi-Prata said: “It was amazing. It has been very tough, especially on the first day. But this is how it is. They call this a Baja but this is a true desert rally ride. Today was a lot of fun, and I am so happy to win the title. It was so hard as I was fighting riders from the UAE, from the US. It was really tough to fight them but I didn’t give up and I got there in the end.”
Under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Crown Prince of Dubai, the traditional desert race took place in the modern Dubai Festival City on the UAE National Day – setting the stage for a truly exciting event that delivered.
Organised by the EMSO, the rally was supported by the Dubai Government, Dubai Police, Dubai Municipality, RTA, Dubai Customs, ENOC, Aquafina, and Dubai Media.