MUSCAT, FEB 4 – Baja Rally fame Abdullah al Zubair has announced his ambitious plans to compete in the World Rally Championships here on Monday.
“I promise everyone a great competition in the World Championships. My goal is to become a world champion,” the Omani rally driver told Oman Daily Observer.
The AZ Racing Team, comprising Abdullah and co-driver Faisal al Raisi, will compete in FIA World Cup in Baja Rally (500 km races) as well as Cross Country Rally (2,000 km races).
“The whole distance in the competition is 14,000 km which equals to distance from Muscat to New York,” Abdullah said during the launch of the AZ Racing Team’s 2019 World Cup racing programme at the Grand Millennium Hotel in Al Ghubra.
AZ Racing’s entry will be engineered and prepared by the German ‘South Racing’ team, the official factory team for CanAm.
Ivan Ingrilli, a representative from South Racing, said Abdullah and Faisal are promising rally drivers and could very well make good impact in the World Championships.
“The South Racing was associated with 18 teams which ended in the top 20 in the prestigious Dakar Rally. We are very selective about drivers and only after seeing the potential in Abdullah and Faisal we could associate with them,” Ingrilli said.
“This is a great opportunity for the young Omani drivers to make it big in the World Rally scene. Assessing their brilliant performance in the short span of time, they have a realistic chance of podium finish in the World Rally Championships,” he added.
Abdullah’s navigator and co-driver Faisal al Raisi said it was Abdullah who brought him to rallying.
“I was doing desert challenges and Abdullah asked me to join him for Abu Dhabi Desert Rally. It was a good start and we came third in the competition.”
Also his first participation, Abdullah along with Faisal came third in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge in the GCC category on a Toyota Hilux car.
Al Zubair continued to achieve results that impressed the motorsport community in the same year after winning the Qatar Baja Rally when he claimed first place overall on the last day of the four-day rally which took place in the deserts and regions of Qatar. In that race he recorded 45 minutes 33 seconds ahead of the second-placed Saudi Ahmed al Shigawi (2018 World Champion) and the third-placed Qatari Adil Abdullah (2016 World Champion).
By winning the Qatar Baja, Al Zubair made his mark in the endurance rally scene.
Abdullah sought support from local companies in his expensive campaign this year.
“We are not a familiar name in the sports scene. I am sure things will improve if we record podium results this year. Meanwhile, we need good support and sponsorship from companies that will greatly help our campaign in the World Rally Championships,” the Omani rally driver said.
“We have a very challenging and exciting year ahead and we are all very much looking forward to it. The new T3 regulations have made the level of competition extremely high and the championship will be contested till the end. However, I am very confident of the setup of the team and believe we have a good chance for the title, a confident Abdullah said.
Abdullah al Zubair has achieved strong results in the races in which he participated last season and left a clear impression in his first official season.
In his first participation outside GCC region, Al Zubair participated in Europe with a Can-Am car, where he achieved his personal and national achievement as the first Omani to participate in a Cross Country or Baja Rally outside the GCC region. Al Zubair participated in the Spanish Baja Aragon Rally, where he achieved a remarkable sixth place in the general ranking.
Abdullah al Zubair crowned his 2018 season finishing second at the Baja Poland competing against European drivers. This was a new record for any Omani and GCC drivers in 2018.
The team’s first participation this year will be in Baja Russia during the period from February 14 to 17.
“My ultimate aim is to compete in Dakar Rally but only after sufficient experience in rallying sport,” Abdullah concluded.