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Strong field for Dubai International Baja rally
March 09, 2018
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DUBAI: There is no better stage for World Cup cross country rallying than the Al Qudra desert which presents a top-class assembly of drivers and riders with a big test this weekend in the Dubai International Baja rally powered by Nissan and AW Rostamani.

After ceremonial start at Dubai Autodrome on Thursday, the action begins in earnest on Friday when a line-up of 58 cars, buggies, bikes and quads tackle a demanding route twisting across the dunes and plains.

For the competitors who undertook round one of this year’s FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies for cars and buggies, the contrast in conditions could not be greater following last month’s opening battle in the frozen forests of Northern Russia.

Czech Martin Prokop and co-driver Jan Tomanek blasted their way through the snow and ice to grab second place on that occasion, and must now contend with a combination of soft and hard-packed sand as they look to block the victory path of UAE favourite and top-seeded diver, Khalid Al Qassimi.

Partnered by French co-driver Xavier Panseri in a Peugeot Abu Dhabi Racing Team 3008 DKR,

Al Qassimi is aiming to build on his two-wheel title success in last year’s World Cup series, which saw him clinch victory in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.

He said: “We had a good test in the car. The specs are different than in the Maxi version so we had to run a test to get the feeling. I will be the first to open the road so the challenge will be even tougher and I think the guys behind should be faster.

“The competition is always high here against international and local drivers and we don’t underestimate anyone. I feel I’m ready for the challenge and I’m looking forward to it.”

Twice a Desert Challenge winner in recent years, Russians Vladimir Vasilyev and Konstantin Zhiltsov finished just behind the Czechs on home territory last month and have their sights set firmly on a maiden win in Dubai.

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