DUBAI: Omani rally driver Abdullah al Zubair and AZ Racing team-mate Nasser al Kuwari endured a true character-building visit to Dubai over the weekend, during a frustrating second round of the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Bajas season.
Going into the event second in the standings and determined to make it two T3 class podiums from as many Baja events, a promising opening Leg on March 8, which concluded with the squad third in class, was ruined during Leg Two on March 9, by a series of mechanical woes.
Despite differential problems just metres from the start, followed by driveshaft failure before reaching one quarter distance of the 205 kilometres stage, Al Zubair and Al Kuwari still managed to come away from the Dubai International Baja sixth in class, salvaging much-needed points.
After the ceremonial start at Dubai Autodrome on March 7, the opening Leg on Friday was eagerly awaited and the Al Qudra desert terrain certainly provided the expected stern test for all of the crews.
Al Zubair and Al Kuwari got their rally under way at 07.20 local time and went on to finish the stage third in T3, roughly 15 minutes off the class lead after more than three hours of intense action across 200 kilometres.
Saturday’s stage was contested over a fractionally longer distance of 205 kilometres and the AZ Racing team-mates were confident in mounting a significant push to catch the top two in class, and challenge for their second top two finish in as many Bajas.
Incredibly, those hopes were then dashed with the early differential breakage on their BRP Can-Am Maverick X3, meaning they had to continue with power through only two wheels. Battling on with great tenacity, at the 40 kilometre point the rear driveshaft then failed which meant power was only being transferred through a single wheel.
As a result, the car became stuck on a sand dune and as Al Zubair and Al Kuwari attempted to free the vehicle it flipped onto its side. Rather than incur a costly non-finish, they sensibly crawled the No 320 entry directly back to the finish of the rally knowing any penalties incurred as a result, no matter how large, would still enable them to score points — ultimately taking sixth in T3.
Abdullah al Zubair:
“We had a good start to the rally, it was a short and fast two days of racing and it was the first time I’d driven the Can-Am on sand. Unfortunately, we faced a lot of technical problems during the rally and while I am, of course, not happy with the results, this is a long championship and we are still second overall. We learned a lot here and we’re looking forward to the next race.”
Nasser al Kuwari:
“It was a short sprint Baja with only 200 kilometres per day and we were very fast as usual, even with only two-wheel drive Abdullah overtook three cars. It’s unfortunate what happened to us but that’s racing and we are happy with our performance, if not the results. At least now we have a good set-up for the sand, we’re looking forward to the rest of the championship.”
There is now a break of three months in the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Bajas calendar, with the third round of the season taking place between June 20 and 23 in Italy. Before then, AZ Racing’s FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup campaign will resume for round two of its season in Abu Dhabi between March 30 and April 4.
FIA World Cup for Cross Country Bajas – Rd2 T3 Class Result:
1. FN Speed Team – Can-Am Maverick X3: 6hrs14m33s
(A Abdullah/J Polato)
2. Michel Fadel – Polaris XP 1000: 6hrs37m12s
(M Fadel/C Tyson)
3. Zavidovo Racing Team – Can-Am Maverick X3: 6hrs40m30s
(F Vorobyev/K Shubin)
6. AZ Racing – BRP Can-Am Maverick X3: 29hrs45m37s
(Abdullah al Zubair/Nasser al Kuwari)
FIA World Cup for Cross Country Bajas – Rd2 Overall Result:
1. Orlen Team X-Raid – MINI John Cooper Works Buggy: 5hrs15m10s
(J Przygonski/T Gottschalk)
2. Abu Dhabi Racing – Peugeot 3008 DKR: 5hrs16m20s
(K Sh Al Qassimi/X Panseri)
3. MP-Sports – Ford Raptor RS Cross Country: 5hrs18m22s
(M Prokop/D Kripal)
22. AZ Racing – BRP Can-Am Maverick X3: 29hrs45m37s
(Abdullah al Zubair/Nasser al Kuwari)