ARAGON, Spain: Round four of the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Bajas was another frustrating case of what might have been for AZ Racing’s Abdullah al Zubair and Faisal al Raisi over the weekend in Aragon, Spain, when an abnormal puncture robbed the duo of an all-but certain podium return.
Impressing from the outset through the Spanish countryside with a series of rapid intermediate times during the first two stages on Friday, 26th July, the Omani pairing then watched their T3 class podium bid rapidly disappear after sustaining the costly puncture.
Dropping the Can-Am Maverick X3 duo out of contention, a considered approach during Leg Two on Saturday, 27th July, meant Al Zubair and Al Raisi avoided any risks and they went on to end the Baja sixth in T3.
Stage One of the Baja on Friday was run over a distance of 165 kilometres and the AZ Racing competitors ensured a long-awaited podium was certainly on the cards by finishing fifth in the T3 class, just over half a minute shy of the top three. Turning heads with their excellent intermediate times, Al Zubair and Al Raisi were second after the first 42 kilometres, third quickest in the middle section and then, even with traffic problems, fourth fastest in the third intermediate.
Stage two followed later in the afternoon, roughly half the distance of the opening challenge, and they again started off brilliantly to be second quickest at the end of the first intermediate. Sadly, the puncture soon followed and, to add insult to injury, a 10 minute penalty was incurred when the spare tyre fell off the No. 238 Can-Am Maverick.
As a result, AZ Racing ended a busy first day of action sixth overall for the Baja in T3 and around 23 minutes outside the podium battle. Having delivered top three pace throughout, Al Zubair and Al Raisi were determined to salvage the best result possible on the second day.
The first of Saturday’s runs was, like stage two, contested over a distance of 86 kilometres and the duo produced a very strong top four finish, less than half a minute outside the top three. Wrapping up the Baja with fifth place on the fourth and final stage, Al Zubair and Al Raisi ended the event in sixth position overall in T3 and just under half an hour away from the podium placings.
Hungary is the next destination on the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Bajas calendar, with round five of the season getting underway on Thursday, 8th August, and reaching a conclusion on Sunday, 11th August.
Abdullah al Zubair:
“Aragon delivered a very fast race, we gave it our absolute best on Leg One and everything was going to plan with some very strong intermediate times. Then, we had an abnormal puncture to one of the tyres and that cost us 10 minutes which instantly took away any hopes we had of the podium.
“On the second day we took things easy as we just wanted to maintain position. Overall, I’m very happy with my performance which showed, as usual, we had the potential to compete with the best. Faisal too did a great job navigating, there wasn’t a single mistake through 500 kilometres of stages.”