Sports

Seaidan snatches victory from Van Loon’s grasp in Jordan Baja

Al-Balooshi and Abu Aisheh grab top two spots in bikes; Saleh Al-Saif moves into FIA T4 title contention

March 20, 2021

AQABA — Saudi Arabia’s Yasir Seaidan took full advantage of his starting position for the final stage to snatch victory away from Dutch rival Erik van Loon at the Jordan Baja.

A second outright win in the space of three weeks for the Mini John Cooper Works Rally driver also means that he extends his early season advantage in the Drivers’ Championship of the 2021 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas, before the series heads into a three-month break before five European rounds between July and October.

Teams tackled a 235.82km stage through Wadi Rum and the surrounding deserts on the final morning and Van Loon set out to defend a 26-second lead, despite running first on the road and having the added burden of opening the track in terms of navigation.

Rival Seaidan took full advantage and managed to close in on the Dutchman as the stage progressed and overhauled the Toyota Hilux driver to secure the win by 5min 24sec.

“It was not easy but our performance became better than yesterday,” said the Saudi, who was partnered by Alexey Kuzmich. “We tried to be more safe today. Unfortunately, after 50km, we get a slow puncture and decided to continue to see what happened.

“We are glad that we finished without changing the tyre. We overtook Van Loon after 54km and we continued in front of him. Then we made a mistake and he overtook us and then we came back again to him and we continued in front of him to the finish. I am leading the championship with two wins. I hope I keep it like this until we finish the season.”

“It was a tough day,” said Van Loon. “At the beginning it looked nice. We had to open and you cannot do the same speed as when you follow a car. No punctures and we drive safe to the finish but the last part of the stage was not nice, only stones and twisty and second gear. When we came here, I was delighted to come on to the podium and we are happy with second.”

Ronan Chabot was never troubled in the second of the Toyotas and the Frenchman and fellow countryman Gilles Pillot cruised to the finish in third place. “It was a good stage, no puncture, quite beautiful country. We enjoyed it.”

Saleh Al-Saif stormed into contention for the FIA T4 Championship with victory in his Can-Am Maverick X3. The Saudi had done all the hard work to gain a good lead on the first day and he stayed clear of trouble through the closing kilometers to seal the win.

“We had a comfortable margin thanks to yesterday’s result,” said the Saudi. “We benefited from it today, as we did not push much. The layout is great. I thank Jordan Motorsport for the route and the precise road book.”

Kuwait’s Meshari Al-Thefiri continued his title bid with second in T4 and fifth overall, Dubai-based Briton Thomas Bell came home in sixth and French veteran Claude Fournier maintained a reduced championship lead after finishing fourth in T4 and seventh overall.

The fastest T4 time on the final day fell to Khalifa Saleh Al-Attiyah, but fuel issues had ruined the Qatari’s chance of challenging for the win on Friday. He finished fifth in T4.

Saudi female driver Dania Akeel completed her second international event, with French navigator Stéphane Duplé on this occasion, and moved into a clear lead in the FIA T3 championship standings. She finished eighth overall.

Various time penalties were imposed on several drivers and riders before the restart. They did not affect the overall standings in the FIA category but cost Abdullah Abu Aisheh more time in his duel with Mohammed Al-Balooshi in the motorcycle section and the local rider began the final day trailing by 5min 24sec.

The duo rode together for much of the final stage and Al-Balooshi held on to secure the win on two wheels by 3min 47sec, but that was increased to 18min 47sec when his rival was handed a 15-minute penalty.

The young Jordanian has been coaching in the UAE confirmed second place and Saudi Arabia’s Abdulhalim Al-Mogheera finished a distant third on this second round of the 2021 FIM Bajas World Cup.

“It was a very tough stage, but I was leading by eight minutes and I just took it easy,” said Al-Balooshi. “I was tired from yesterday. I guess I am still recovering from January’s Covid. I am not 100%.

“I thought I was. I stayed behind Abdullah. He did a great job and we rode together. I could not ask for a better result. If he had not had the penalty, I would have had to attack a bit more. This was much more difficult that my last win here (2019).”

Runner-up Abu Aisheh added: “Today was a very hard stage, all rocks and gravel and no dunes or soft sand, only at the start for 40km. We did good, me and Balooshi, because he is my coach and my big brother. I was pushing all I have.”

Amit Sadot and Talat Al-Shishane rounded off the top five. Local rider Zaid Jaber failed to restart after sustaining a back injury on Friday, as Kuwait’s Sarah Khuraibet won the Women’s award.

Hani Al-Noumesi stayed well ahead of Yamaha rival Faisal Al-Suwayh to seal a second international success in a quad category in the space of three weeks. Haitham Al-Tuwayjri failed to restart after his fuel feed issues on the opening day.

The Saudi Arabian crew of Hamed Harbi and Waleed Al-Shegawi cruised to an emphatic win in the Jordan National Baja. This year’s Jordan Baja was organised by Jordan Motorsport and received support from sponsor Zain, the telecommunications provider. — SG


March 20, 2021
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