Thirty-one motorcycles, five quads and competitors from 12 nations have entered this weekend’s Saudi Baja-Hail, the opening round of the 2023 FIM Bajas World Cup, in addition to four riders taking part in a national event running behind.
While two-time event winner Mohammed Al-Balooshi of the MX Ride Dubai team heads the field on his TM 450, two other former Hail winners feature on the international entry.
Al-Balooshi’s brother Sultan also represents the MX Ride Dubai team and is a two-time former winner of the longer Hail International Rally (2018 and 2019), while Saudi rider Mishal Al-Ghuneim reached the top step of the podium on a Husqvarna in 2021.
There is strength in depth across the entry, with several riders more than capable of challenging for victory, while others will be hopeful of scoring points in the FIM Womens’ and FIM Veterans’ categories.
Young Jordanian rider Abdullah Abu Aishah (KTM) has pushed Al-Balooshi close on several occasions in the past and will be hopeful of starting his FIM challenge in winning style. He finished fifth on the 2022 Saudi Baja last November, behind the triumphant Al-Balooshi, Kuwait’s Abdullah Al-Shatti (Kawasaki), Al-Ghuneim and fellow Saudi Anass Al-Reheyani. All three of those rivals will be challenging for top honours again this weekend.
FIM Junior hopeful Alex McInnes is seeded at four and the Briton is more than capable of finishing on the podium, while Qatar-based Australian was sixth last year and will be aiming for a top three finish. Other international riders likely to challenge for top honours are Kiwi Philip Wilson, Australia’s Andrew Houlihan and the British duo of Barry Howe and Brett Hunt.
The neighbouring State of Qatar will be represented by Sheikh Mohammed Al-Thani (Gas-Gas), Mohammed Al-Kaabi (KTM), Mahanna Rashid Al-Naimi (Honda) and Abdulrahman Al-Sheeb (KTM). Yaghoob Azadi will ride a Rasen Racing Team Husqvarna in the national category.
Kuwait’s Sarah Khuraibet (Duust Rally Team Husqvarna) and Indian rider Sarah Kashyap (Beta) will decide the outcome of the Womens’ category.
Last year’s quad winner Haitham Al-Tuwaijri faces Saudi rivals Hani Al-Noumesi, Abdulaziz Al-Atawi and Sultan Al-Masoud and Emirati Abdulaziz Ahli to decide the honours on four wheels.
The Baja is being managed by the Saudi Motorsport Company, in conjunction with the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF) and the Ministry of Sport. The event is running under the chairmanship of H.R.H. Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal, the President of the SAMF and in partnership with Abdul Latif Jameel (ALJ) Motors.
The weekend weather forecast is for dry, sunny conditions but cool daytime temperatures in the deserts surrounding the city of Hail. The on-stage timetable of events fires into life with a three-kilometre Qualifying Stage on Thursday (February 2nd) afternoon that takes place after the traditional ceremonial start adjacent to the Maghwat conference facility.
2023 Saudi Baja-Hail – leading entries
1. Mohammed Al-Balooshi (ARE) – TM 450
2. Abdullah Abu Aishah (JOR) – KTM EXC-F 450
3. Abdullah Al-Shatti (KWT) – Kawasaki KC 450
4. Alex McInnes (GBR) – Husqvarna FE 450
5. Mishal Al-Ghuneim (SAU) – KTM 450 Rally
6. Anass Al-Rehyani (SAU) – KTM 450
7. Martin Chalmers (AUS) – Beta 450
8. Hamdan Al-Ali (ARE) – Husqvarna FE 450
9. Abdulhalim Al-Mogheera (SAU) – KTM EXC F 450
10. Sultan Al-Balooshi (ARE) – TM 450
11. Yasir Al-Khuraif (SAU) – KTM SFX 450
12. Ehab Al-Hakeem (LEB) – Yamaha WR 450F
13. Ahmed Al-Jaber (SAU) – KTM 450
14. Fawaz Al-Toaimi (SAU) – Yamaha WR 450F
15. Mohammed Jaffar Meshari (KWT) – KTM 450 RFR
16. Mohammed Al-Kaabi (QAT) – KTM 450
17. Sheikh Mohammed Al-Thani (QAT) – Gas-Gas 450
18. Philip Wilson (NZL) – KTM 450 Rally
19. Gerard Lubbinge (NLD) – KTM EXC F 450
20. Jonathan Finn (CAN) – Honda CRF 450 RL
21. Barry Howe (GBR) – KTM SXF 450
22. Brett Hunt (GBR) – Husqvarna FE 450
23. Andrew Houlihan (AUS) – Husqvarna RFR 450
24. Mahanna Rashid Al-Naimi (QAT) – Honda 450
25. Sohaib Al-Barade (SAU) – Honda CRF 450 X
100. Hani Al-Noumesi (SAU) – Yamaha Raptor 700
101. Abdulaziz Al-Atawi (SAU) – Yamaha YFZ 450
102. Abdulaziz Al-Ahli (ARE) – Yamaha Raptor 700
103. Sultan Al-Masoud (SAU) – Yamaha Raptor 700
111. Haitham Al-Tuwaijri (SAU) – Yamaha Raptor 700
2023 Saudi National Baja-Hail – leading entries:
60. Bader Al-Bader (SAU) – KTM EXC-500
61. Simon Francis (AUS) – KTM EXC-F
62. Yaghoob Azadi (QAT) – Husqvarna FE 501
63. Abdulwahab Al-Mana (SAU) – KTM EXC-F
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