|Baja Spain: UAE´s Al-Mutaiwei restarts FIA World Cup campaign this weekend.|
Dubai’s Khalifa Al-Mutaiwei and German co-driver Andreas Schulz resume their challenge for honours in the 2012 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies after a near three-month lay-off by taking part in this weekend’s Baja Spain.
The nature of the FIA calendar means that there has been no action in the series since the inaugural Sealine Cross-Country Rally in Qatar at the end of April and Al-Mutaiwei is relishing the prospect of getting back in the driving seat of his Fazza Rally Team Mini All4 Racing on Spain’s premier off-road event.
The Emirati, a world champion in 2004, made a dramatic return to the sport at the start of this season with his X-raid-built car and has made an impression from the outset.
After three rounds of the series in Italy, Abu Dhabi and Qatar, Al-Mutaiwei holds second position in the Drivers’ Championship and is a mere 16 points behind twice-Dakar winner Jean-Louis Schlesser from France.
The Frenchman suffered a hand injury taking part in last week’s Silk Way Rally in Russia and faces a fight against time to be fully fit for the Spanish event, where both he and Khalifa will lock horns with an impressive list of international drivers.
Stéphane Peterhansel, the most successful Dakar Rally racer of all time, returns to action as part of the X-raid team with his Mini All4 Racing and further top flight competition is expected from Silk Way Rally winner Boris Gadasin, Czech driver Miroslav Zapletal, Dutchman Erik van Loon, Russian Vladimir Vasilyev and a host of leading European off-road drivers.
"This event comes from a long absence from competition because of the nature of the calendar," said Al-Mutaiwei. "I am really looking forward to sitting behind the wheel again.
"I have been preparing physically over the last three months. I have lost some weight and got myself into even better shape. I have also spent time with Andy (Schulz) and we reviewed our performances on the last three races and looked at the weak points and where we can make improvements. This is a shorter event by cross-country standards. It is important not to make a mistake and take as many points as possible.
This year’s Baja Spain will be located mainly in the remote Monegros area of Aragon between the Nationa II Highway and the Alcubierre mountains. There will be a punishing 200km stage with a start and finish in the small Aragon municipality of Perdiguera, near Zaragoza, and the action taking place over narrow, dusty tracks in intense summer temperatures.
Competition will also take place over a shorter stage of around 100km, starting in Perdiguera and finishing in the village of La Almolda, with approximately 520km on offer for the car entrants before the finish on Sunday, July 22nd.
2012 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies after round 3:
01) Jean Louis Schlesser (FRA) I 96 pts
02) Khalifa Al-Mutaiwei (UAE) I 80 pts
03) Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT) I 60 pts
04) Yayha Al-Helai (UAE) I 52 pts
05) Lucio Alvarez (ARG) I 42 pts
06) Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS) I 34 pts
07) Ilya Kusnetsov (RUS) I 33 pts
08) Patrick Sireyjol (FRA) I 32 pts
09) Reinaldo Varela (BRA) I 28 pts
10) Peter van Merksteijn (NLD) I 21 pts
11) Faisal Al-Attiyah (QAT) I 20 pts
12) Bogdan Novytskyi (UKR) I 16 pts
12) Matar Al-Mansoori (UAE) I 16 pts, etc.
2012/07/18 | 22:33 CET | ARTICLE: MR/HS/PERKINS