Al Qassimi leads UAE challenge as new event showing way ahead for rallying takes on Al Qudra desert
Flying Dutchman Erik Van Loon is among the overseas stars ready for battle with the Arab world’s top desert specialists in next month’s Dubai International Baja which establishes a new double World Cup date for the UAE in cross country rallying.
Van Loon and co-driver Wouter Rosegaar, who finished runners-up in the 2015 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, return to action in the UAE in a Toyota Hilux for the second round of this year’s FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies.
The T1 prototype class also brings a double entry from France, with Ronan Chabot assisted by Gilles Tillot in a T1 Toyota Hillux and Yannick Commagnac accompanied by Herve Lavergne in a 2WD SMG buggy.
Leading the UAE challenge will be Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi, who contested the Dakar Rally for the first time in January and will be looking to underline his presence at the top level of cross country rallying on home territory in an Abu Dhabi Racing Peugeot 2008 DKR.
With Al Qassimi relying this time on the local knowledge of top Emirati co-driver Khalid Al Kendi, his regular partner in World Rally Championship events, Ulsterman Chris Patterson, will accompany young Emirati Mansour Al Helei in a T2 Toyota Landcruiser.
Another big UAE hopeful will be Ahmed Al Maqoodi who won the candidate event staged in Dubai in December that led to the rally being added to this year’s FIA World Cup calendar. He will be partnered in a T3 Polaris buggy by Obaid Al Kitbe, the 2012 Desert Challenge quads champion.
Organised by the Automobile and Touring Club of UAE and running through the Al Qudra desert from 9-11 March, the Dubai International Baja is part of a three-event swing of the Middle East which also includes the Desert Challenge (1-7 April) and Qatar’s Sealine Cross Country Rally (16-21 April).
“We’re building towards a powerful starting line-up which is very encouraging for the Baja International Rally as it’s a new event showing the way ahead for rallying in the UAE, and the region as a whole,