WATCH: Qatar's Al Kuwari wins general classification and SSV category as Qatar International Baja ends
After three days of exhilarating action in the Qatari desert, the Qatar International Baja came to a befitting end yesterday at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor.
Qatar's Ahmed Al Kuwari, the UAE's Mohammed Al Balooshi, and Saudi Arabia's Haitham Al Tuwaijri sealed outright victories in the motorcycle, quad and SSV sections of the competition hosted by the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF).
Riders and drivers from 15 countries participated in the competition, the fifth round of the FIM Bajas World Cup, which involved 32 bikes, four quads, and four SSVs.
Ahmed and Nasser Al Kuwari showed their talent by completely dominating the SSV category of Qatar's flagship off-road event in a Yamaha YXZ 1000R.
The Qatari duo, who were also the general classification winners, were faster than all the motorcycles to boot. Al Kuwari reached the finish nearly three hours ahead of nearest SSV rival Abdullah Al Khelaifi and was a staggering 2hr 03min 24sec in front of the leading motorcycle. Khalid Al Mohannadi brought his Polaris home in third, the automobilsport website reported.
"It was a nice rally, and my brother Nasser and I enjoyed every moment," said Al Kuwari. "He did a great job with the navigation. We never got lost, just a few turns when we may have been overspeeding. It was a very good job. I was concentrating on bringing the car home and getting no punctures. We had a nice rhythm. Now I have unfinished business in Dakar. Hopefully, we can go there now."
There were several strong performances in the over 450cc motorcycle section, although these riders were not able to score FIM Baja World Cup points.
"We are delighted with the successful hosting of this event which took place despite the prevailing global challenges which necessitated the cancellation of some similar competitions around the world. The competition was very successful, and we are happy to host the world in Qatar. We look forward to the next event with great excitement," QMMF's Executive Director Amro al-Hamad said.
Saudi Arabia's Ahmed Al Jaber started the final stage with a 16-second cushion over Brett Hunt, but it was the British enduro rider who managed to top the class rankings by 7min 51sec after an excellent final passage through the dunes. Several riders became stuck in the sand in the heat, and the recovery crews were busy during the afternoon.
Britons Harry Michael, Hugh Mackay and Joseph Dann all took a rest in the shade before continuing towards the stage finish.
MX Ride Dubai's Mohammed Al Balooshi delivered a polished performance over the closing 249.68km selective section that started at Al Kharsaah and included a tricky final passage through the sand dunes near the Inland Sea, south of Doha, where temperatures rose into the low forties Centigrade.
He completed the grueling stage in just under nine minutes shy of five hours to seal a 10min 57sec victory over British youngster Robert Wallace in the motorcycle section. The latter's consolation was sealing the top spot in the FIM Juniors category.
Al Balooshi said, "It was a very tough two stages, but I am happy that we managed to bring the bike home and win this round of the FIM Bajas World Cup and extend our championship lead. I am a little disappointed that Abdullah Abuaisheh could not start because it is good to compete with your main rival. I thank him for letting me use his front wheel. I damaged mine.
"Now I will go to Portugal for the last round, which is double points. I started off with third in Dubai, a win in Jordan and a win here. But I have a torn ligament in my shoulder. I was nursing it home and managed to win. I probably only rode at 60 or 70 percent."
The UK's Andrew Newland rounded off the podium places, and Kuwait's Abdullah Al Shatti overcame a fall to finish fourth. Richard Dors and Makis Rees-Stavros rode strongly on the final day to snatch fifth and sixth.
Unfortunately, x-rays confirmed Martin Chalmers's worst fears and the Qatar-based Australian was forced to withdraw from the motorcycle event with two broken ankle bones and ligament damage. It was a testament to his determination that he had completed the second stage in the first position and managed to put his bike into Parc Ferme to restart, albeit with eight minutes of penalties later added to his time.
Saudi Arabia's Haitham Al Tuwaijri was the class of the quad field from the start and the Yamaha rider extended his lead in the FIM Bajas World Cup with an emphatic win. Hani Al Noumesi's mechanical issues paved the way for Sultan Al Masoud to finish second in the category.
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