Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 25 February 2019: The UAE’s Khalid Al Qassimi will start as favourite to land the cars title in next month’s Dubai International Baja powered by Nissan and AW Rostamani, but he faces major opposition in an event drawing a world-class line-up of Middle East and overseas competitors.
Partnered by French co-driver Xavier Panseri in his Peugeot Abu Dhabi Racing Team 3008 DKR, Al Qassimi is the top-seeded driver in the second round of the 2019 FIA World Cup for Cross Country Bajas for cars and buggies.
Heading the bikes seedings in the event which also forms the opening round of this year’s FIM Bajas World Cup for bikes and quads is Mohammed Al Balooshi, the UAE’s reigning world champion and winner in Dubai last year.
The two top Emirati contenders are among an impressive international assembly of 115 competitors from 25 countries in the official entry list issued today by the Automobile and Touring Club for the UAE (ATCUAE), the rally organisers.
Among Al Qassimi’s main challengers will be last year’s winner, Poland’s Jakub Przygonski, this time partnered by German co-driver Timo Gottschalk in a MINI John Cooper, and the 2018 runners-up, Russia’s Vladimir Vasilyev and Konstantin Zhiltsov in a Toyota Hillux Overdrive.
Second seed in the 30-car entry and looking to follow on from last year’s Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge triumph, and fourth place in Dubai, is Czech driver Martin Prokop accompanied by Jan Tomanek in a Ford Raptor RS Cross Country.
Other top overseas contenders include Polish driver Bartlomiej Boba and Finland’s Tapio Suominen in the Toyota Hilux which they took to an opening round third place in the frozen forests of Northern Russia, and Miroslav Zapletal and Marek Sykora who finished fourth in that event in a Ford F150 Evo.
Among the crews aiming to make their mark for the host country are Al Qassimi’s brother, Abdullah Al Qassimi alongside British co-driver Steve Lancaster in a Toyota Hilux, as well as Emiratis Mansoor Al Helei and Khalid Al Kendi in the Nissan Pick-up which took them to fifth place last year.