We choose a selection of our favourite images by our old mates at MCH Photo from the 2017 Dubai International Baja. The Cross Country event proved a good weekend for the local boys competing too…
We cannot display this galleryIf many presumed that 2017 Dakar winner Sam Sunderland would play an integral part in the fight for victory on the Dubai International Baja, they were proven both sorely, and quickly, mistaken. Back in January, Sunderland became the first Briton to ever take victory on the infamous Dakar Rally in the event’s 38-year history, following his triumphant KTM run in the bike category. On home turf in Dubai, where the Red Bull man has lived since he was 19-years old, many considered Sunderland’s victory a mere formality.
Mechanical woes though meant Mr Dakar was out of contention early on day 1, with the fight for bike category victory being taken up by France’s Benjamin Melot and South Africa’s Mark Ackerman. Sunderland’s early departure would be just the start of a dramatic run.
After a successful, and relatively clean run on day one, Melot’s KTM 500 EXC 5 had eked out a 1m 28s advantage over Ackerman’s Husqvarna 450 FX, Italy’s Alessandro Ruoso holding his own against the UAE’s Mohammed Al Balooshi for the final podium finish. Changeable conditions on the second day though was the half-agape door both Ackerman and Al Balooshi needed though, the former scything through the stages on day two to brilliantly turn a 90 second gap into a 29s lead he kept to the flag, Al Balooshi similarly upsetting the form book to oust Ruoso from the final podium spot. A result many predicted before the weekend began had been thrown completely out the window.
Al Balooshi’s podium was only the start of a good weekend for the local boys on the Dubai international Baja. 12-time Middle East Rally champion and two-time Dakar winner Nasser Al-Attiyah stormed to a comfortable victory in his eponymous #302 Toyota Hilux, taking all three stage victories en-route. Indeed, Al-Attiyah’s advantage at the line was almost 15m up on second-placed Khalid Al Qassimi in #303 Abu Dhabi Racing Peugeot 2008 DKR, a bent tracking arm and delays on the very first stage leaving the Emirati Sheikh driver on the chase from the get-go. The result was no less deserved, however, second place in Dubai the first outright podium in Al Qassimi’s Cross Country rally career thus far. Al-Attiyah’s contemporary Mohammed Abu Issa meanwhile made it an all-GCC podium in the #309 X-Raid MINI ALL4 Racing.
Those of you here for the Awesome Images meanwhile (can’t say we blame you) may want to check out our favourite selection above from the guys at MCH Photo. As we’ve highlighted in the past, the guys are pretty bloody good!