|Baja Qatar: Qatari drivers and riders aim to fend off International Opposition.|
Qatar’s leading cross-country drivers and riders will be hoping to fend off strong international competition in this weekend’s Qatar International Baja, a candidate event for inclusion in the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies, which takes place on Friday and Saturday.
Meshal Al-Emadi leads the local challenge in the competitive 450 motorcycle class with his Honda CRF 450X, while Adel Hussein Abdullah and Nasser Hassan Al-Rabaan have entered a pair of KTM quads in the event being organised by the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF).
They should be the men to beat in the exciting quad class - Adel Hussein finished third overall in the Quad category at the last Qatar Baja in 2005 on a Yamaha Raptor. "I started a training programme last year with a view to doing the Dakar Rally and I have been keeping in good physical condition since then," said Adel Hussein.
"I have a new KTM XC 525 and did about 100km of testing in the desert on Tuesday. The bike was new to me and I need to make a few changes to the set-up before, maybe, testing again on Thursday. My KTM mechanic arrived from the UAE and we will work together to get the bike right for the weekend. It will not be easy and I know the UAE rider Obaid Al-Kitbi is supposed to be very fast."
Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah is the obvious favourite to win the car category of this year’s Baja - bearing in mind that he crushed the opposition in the first two Qatar Bajas in 2004 and 2005. Mohammed Al-Mannai may well be his closest home challenger. Partnered by Nasser Sadoon Al-Kuwari, Al-Mannai has entered a powerful GMC and is seeded at five behind Al-Attiyah, the Ukraine’s Vadym Nesterchuk and the UAE duo of Sheikh Suhail bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum and Nabil Al-Shamsi.
Al-Mannai teamed up with Abil Abdullah to take fourth place in the 2004 Qatar Baja at the wheel of a Nissan Patrol, the Qatari finishing behind Al-Attiyah’s Chevrolet Pro-Truck, Spain’s Joan ‘Nani’ Roma in a factory-entered Mitsubishi Pajero MPR9 and Qatar’s Jaralla Ali in a Land Rover on that occasion. Jamal Fakhroo also represents the State of Qatar and is seeded at 23 with co-driver Kamal Khoder in a Land Rover.
Officials at the QMMF have left nothing to chance, as Qatar bids to return to the FIA Cross-Country calendar in 2012. "We have taken extra measures on safety issues this time," admitted clerk of the course Elie Semaan.
"FIA regulations state that you should have an ambulance or an FIV (first intervention vehicle) up to every 80km on the route. We will use nine ambulances and 10 FIVs on the route and one at the Sealine centre and helicopter support. That equates to having one safety vehicle, equipped with paramedics, fire extinguishers and cutting equipment, every 25-30km."
"The safety of the competitors is our absolute priority and with Nasser Khalifa Al-Attiyah, our president, working as president of the FIA Off-Road Commission, we cannot compromise anything. We also have an automated tracking system, which means that as soon as a car starts a stage its position is available to race officials. The beauty of Qatar is that even the remotest terrain is completely covered by a GPRS network and we are in touch with every competitor at all times."
Administration checks and scrutineering will be finalised at the headquarters of the QMMF in Doha on Thursday. Leading competitors and race officials will attend a pre-event press conference at the QMMF from 19.30hrs on Thursday evening. The ceremonial start will take place at the Sealine Resort from 12.50hrs on Friday.
2011/11/23 | 12:34 CET | ARTICLE: MR/SY/PERKINS