AZ Racing battling odds after electrical dramas in Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI: High expectations turned into disappointing lows for Oman’s AZ Racing during the first two days of this week’s Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, round two of the FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup, with major electrical dramas on the opening stages having a devastating effect on the team’s chances.
Driver Abdullah al Zubair and navigator Nasser al Kuwari began the event on March 31 with their sights set firmly on a T3 class podium bid. With the first two days pretty much ruined due to electrical gremlins, though, the duo has an unenviable task for the remainder of the event.
Initially making a strong and extremely competitive start to the rally, which is renowned as the toughest on the calendar, the duo had to retire from Leg One about 50 kilometres from the finish when the electrical issue first surfaced.
Thanks to tremendous work through the night from Powertec Dubai and South Racing, who prepare the AZ Racing entry, the No 333 BRP Can-Am Maverick X3 was ready with just 20 minutes to go before the start of Leg Two on April 1. Incredibly, despite all the hard work, the rogue electrical problem resurfaced as Al Zubair and Al Kuwari headed to the start of the stage.
Prevented from taking part, and incurring significant time penalties as a result of having to head back to the service park, the duo rejoined the rally on April 2, for Leg Three but even that wasn’t without its problems with the four-wheel drive. Having to tackle the longest stage of the rally on just two-wheel drive, they did a superb job to finish fourth in T3.
Proving what might have been possible without the dramas of the first three days, Al Zubair and Al Kuwari now head into the final two days of the rally confident of challenging front-runners such as Brazil’s Reinaldo Varela, who is second overall in T3, and class leader Casey Currie from the USA.
Of course, with the heavy time penalties incurred over the course of the first two days due to the repair work required for the No 333 entry, AZ Racing is largely competing for pride for the rest of the rally from ninth overall in T3. The aim, therefore, is to try and bid for at least one stage victory which Al Zubair’s pace most certainly deserves.
Leg Four of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, the ADNOC Stage, was contested on Wednesday with the fifth and final Leg, the Abu Dhabi Aviation Stage, following on Thursday.
Abdullah Al Zubair:
“Finally, on Tuesday, we had a complete stage! On day one we were doing well until we had some electrical problems which meant we had to retire three quarters of the way though the stage. The next day, the car was ready 20 minutes before the start — the team stayed up all night to work on the car — but, again, on the liaison to the stage we had the same issue with the electrics.
“Therefore, we had to go back to service and the team then fixed the problem so we could come back into the rally on day three. On the way to the stage, though, another mechanical problem forced us onto just two-wheel drive but we continued and we were happy with our performance over the big dunes, showing our skills to pass a lot of cars. The rally has been very tough on us so far, so we’re looking forward now to try and take a stage win from the final two days.”