Chalmers, Al-Tuwaijri and Al-Kuwari fastest on second desert stage of Qatar International Baja

– Competitors set to tackle third timed test of 249.68km on Saturday

Qatar-based Australian Martin Chalmers, Saudi Arabia’s Haitham Al-Tuwaijri and Qatar’s Ahmed Al-Kuwari recorded the fastest times in the motorcycle, quad and SSV categories on the second desert stage of the Qatar International Baja on Friday.

They duly held outright leads in their respective categories on this new fifth round of the FIM Bajas World Cup.

Riding a Yamaha WRF 450F, Chalmers stopped the clocks in 4hr 08min 56sec to complete the stage 4min 27sec in front of MX Ride Dubai’s Mohammed Al-Balooshi and head into the night halt with an overall lead of 3min 27sec. But the Australian injured himself on the stage and will be racing through the pain barrier on the final day.

« Today was very challenging with the heat above all else, » said Chalmers. « Sections of the stage were very fast with a lot of navigation. We had sections with 300 or 400 metres between navigation points. A lot of the course was under waypoint. This certainly helped because there are a lot of car tracks in Qatar.
« The result was great from my side but it seems I have a suspected broken ankle. I’ll hand the bike into Parc Ferme and then go and get some x-rays. The intention is to ride tomorrow regardless and, hopefully, I can pull through. I am looking forward to a big section in the sand tomorrow. »

Al-Balooshi added: « It’s a tough Baja, the toughest. Good navigation and perfect training for Dakar. Conditions are very hot and I enjoyed it. I am looking forward to tomorrow. »

British youngster Robert Wallace rode impressively to top the FIM Juniors’ category to hold third and stay ahead of Kuwait’s fourth-placed Abdullah Al-Shatti.

The day’s timed action of 249.12km started at Al-Jumailiyah and included a wide variety of desert terrain and the usually demanding navigation associated with the tricky trails and tracks through the Qatar desert.

Al-Balooshi, Chalmers and Al-Shatti all started strongly and were the front-running bikers through the second passage control at 146.87km after the refuelling stop.

Bahrain’s Salman Mohamed and overnight leader Mohammed Jaffar Meshari were penalised for missing a series of waypoints and, by the time the leaders had reached the 161.82km (PC3) point, Chalmers had gained the virtual stage lead from Al-Balooshi and Al-Shatti.

Sheikh Mohammed Al-Thani was riding strongly on his pristine Honda and the Qatari completed the stage in sixth. He holds seventh overall behind Barry Howe and Andrew Newland.

A minor injury meant that Qatar’s Jamal Al-Jeteti didn’t take the start and mechanical issues put paid to Sarah Khuraibet’s challenge, although the Kuwaiti hopes to tackle the final stage on Saturday. Emirati Sultan Al-Balooshi suffered road book holder issues and retired with engine damage, while a front tyre, rim and clutch problems plagued Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed Al-Muaikil.

Al-Tuwaijri was the early leader of the quad field on his Yamaha and overnight SSV category leader Ahmed Al-Kuwari continued like a sprinter out of the blocks to storm to class victory in the unofficial results.

« Today we did a great result, » said Al-Kuwari’s co-driver Nasser Al-Kuwari. « We drove very well. It was a tricky road book. I know this area very well and we did many cross-country and Baja here. I used my experience of the last Dakar and my work with Meshari Al-Thefiri to support Ahmed. So it was a very good result – first in our category and first overall. »

Meanwhile, Al-Tuwaijri held on to seal the quad stage win and a huge outright advantage.

The UK’s Patsy Quick and Vanessa Ruck rode together for much of the day with the experienced Dakar veteran showing her younger accomplice the ropes in the over-450cc section. Ahmed Al-Jaber recorded the fastest time amongst the over-450s and Brett Hunt and Mohammed Al-Khater rounded off the top three.

Saturday
Competitors face a third desert selective section of 249.68km on Saturday. There will be passage controls from the Al-Kharsaah start after 36.39km, 49.17km, 86.21km and 124.96km with a refuelling stop at the fourth PC.

A liaison of 92.79km then takes the finishers back to Losail in advance of the post-event press conference (18.00hrs) and podium ceremony (18.30hrs) at the Al-Bayt Stadium.

Qatar International Baja – positions after SS2
Motorcycles – up to 450cc (FIM)
1. Martin Chalmers (AUS) Yamaha WRF 450F, 4hr 30min 28sec
2. Mohammed Al-Balooshi (ARE) KTM 450 RR, 4hr 33min 55sec
3. Robert Wallace (GBR) KTM 450 RR, 4hr 38min 13sec
4. Abdullah Al-Shatti (KWT) KTM 450, 4hr 40min 37sec
5. Edward Lines (NZL) KTM 450 RFR, 5hr 08min 08sec
6. Andrew Newland (GBR) KTM EXC F, 5hr 08min 25sec
7. Sheikh Mohammed Al-Thani (QAT) Honda CRF 450 Rally R5, 5hr 10min 54sec
8. Richard Dors (GBR) KTM 450 RR, 5hr 21min 19sec
9. Kurt Burroughs (GBR) KTM 450 Rally, 5hr 42min 37sec
10. Gennadii Korolenko (RUS) KTM EXC 450, 5hr 58min 58sec

Select others
11. Makis Rees-Stavros (GBR) KTM 450 EXC-F, 5hr 59min 47sec…
13. Mohammed Al-Kaabi (QAT) KTM 450, 9hr 02min 03sec…
17. Tariq Al-Nasr (QAT) Honda CRF 450 R, 9hr 26min 12sec…
18. Abdulrahman Al-Sheeb (QAT) Beta, 9hr 26min 24sec…

Quads
1. Haitham Al-Tuwaijri (SAU) Yamaha YFZ 450R, 6hr 03min 29sec
2. Sultan Al-Masoud (SAU) Yamaha Raptor, 9hr 23min 56sec
3. Hani Al-Noumesi (SAU) Yamaha Raptor 700, 9hr 24min 04sec
4. Faisal Al-Suwayh (SAU) Yamaha, 9hr 37min 24sec

SSVs
1. Ahmed Al-Kuwari (QAT)/Nasser Al-Kuwari (QAT) Yamaha YXZ 1000 R, 3hr 40min 59sec
2. Khalid Al-Mohannadi (QAT)/Chris Barwick (GBR) Polaris RZR 1000, 4hr 55min 28sec
3. Abdullah Al-Khelaifi (QAT)/Abdulaziz Al-Jabri (QAT) Yamaha YXZ 1000 R, 5hr 04min 41sec
4. Henry Kahy (LEB)/Musa Djiyerian (JOR) Can-Am X3, 9hr 22min 28sec…

Motorcycles – Over 450cc
1. Ahmed Al-Jaber (SAU) KTM 500 EXC-F, 5hr 40min 06sec
2. Brett Hunt (GBR) KTM Enduro R, 5hr 40min 22sec
3. Mohammed Al-Khater (SAU) KTM EXC 500, 6hr 09min 02sec
4. Harry Michael (GBR) Beta Racing, 9hr 22min 56sec
5. Patsy Quick (GBR) Beta RR, 9hr 25min 40sec
6. Joseph Dann (GBR) KTM 500 EXC-F, 9hr 26min 52sec
7. Hugh Mackay (GBR) KTM 500 EXC-F, 9hr 37min 20sec

Qatar National Baja
1. Emiel Stuckens (BEL) Can-Am DS450, 9hr 24min 48sec

Neil Perkins,

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