World Rally-Raid Championship

Mohammed Al-Balooshi steals FIM Bajas World Cup in Dubai finale

3 Mins read
Credit: Rally Zone

The FIM Bajas World Cup was turned upside down at the season-ending Dubai International Baja as the points leader in nearly every class, including the premier 450cc category, left the finale without the championship.

David Megre entered Dubai with a six-point lead in the 450cc standings over Mohammed Al-Balooshi, and needed to finish fourth to be guaranteed the title regardless of Al-Balooshi’s performance. Although Megre won the Prologue, he struggled over the next two days and finished just one spot short in fifth, with Makis Rees-Stavros edging him out for fourth by less than four minutes.

Despite a bizarre final day in which he received a penalty that was subsequently rescinded, Al-Balooshi scored the win in his home Baja and overtook Megre by just two points.

“This is the seventh round for me and doing it on the last day in my country is icing on the cake,” said Al-Balooshi. “I’m really happy for that.”

The Quad class was a three-way battle between Kevin Giroud, Haitham Al-Tuwayjiri, and Hani Al-Noumesi, the former two being tied for the points lead going into the finale while Al-Noumesi was eight points back. However, after claiming the Prologue, Al-Tuwayjiri’s title hopes were dashed by a mechanical failure in SS2 that forced him to retire. Al-Noumesi received a speeding penalty the same day that knocked him out of contention.

Giroud finished second behind Abdulaziz Ahli, who won the World Rally-Raid Championship’s Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge in March, to ice the title. The win completes a top year for the Giroud family as his brother Alexandre claimed both the Dakar Rally and W2RC season-ending Rallye du Maroc.

Veterans Trophy leader Andrew Houlihan was forced to surrender his championship hopes due to leg surgery for a ruptured tendon that prevented him from taking part. With Houlihan out, Pedro Bianchi Prata simply placed second behind Richard Brewer to leapfrog Houlihan for the win; he had entered Dubai trailing Houlihan by six points.

While Houlihan fell short, his friend Jonathan Finn walked away with the Junior Trophy ahead by finishing third among riders under the age of 25. Jean-Loup Lepan, who recently finished third in the W2RC’s Rally2 standings, won the race.

Esther Merino Garica and Sarah Khuraibet were the lone female riders at Dubai, the two separated by just four points for the 2023 Women’s Trophy. While Khuraibet hoped to seal the title on her home turf, Merino beat her in all three stages and won with over an hour.

Besides the FIM, the FIA’s World and Middle East Cups for Cross-Country Bajas also concluded their seasons in Dubai, which became the last round for all three series after the Jordan Baja was cancelled due to the war in Gaza. Consequently, the 2023 FIM Bajas calendar was only seven races long with the top six results counting towards a rider’s final championship total.

Overall winners

T1200Nasser Al-AttiyahNasser Racing5:22:52.3
T2220Ibrahim Nasser AlmuhnaIbrahim Nasser Almuhna23:09:30.5
T3301Otávio Sousa LeiteSouth Racing Can-Am6:04:05.5
T4400João FerreiraSouth Racing Can-Am5:48:48.1
450cc2Mohammed Al-BalooshiMX Ride Dubai5:42:25.3
Quad105Abdulaziz AhliAbdulaziz Ahli6:34:23.1
FIM Junior76Jean-Loup LepanDUUST Diverse Racing5:53:53
FIM Veteran50Richard BrewerRichard Brewer6:23:38.5
FIM Woman20Esther MerinoEsther Merino9:03:52.5

Final FIM Bajas World Cup standings


1Mohammed Al-Balooshi90Leader
2David Megre88– 2
3Pedro Bianchi Prata63– 27
4Abdullah Alshatti58– 32
5Jonathan Finn49– 41
6Andrew Houlihan43– 47
T-7Mirjam Pol29– 61
T-7Sara Garcia Alvarez29– 61
T-9Štefan Svitko25– 65
T-9Tosha Schareina25– 65
T-9Konrad Dąbrowski25– 65
T-9Alex McInnes25– 65
T-13Paulo Cardoso21– 69
T-13Adao Rafael Teixeira Marques21– 69
T-15Jan Brabec20– 70
T-15Lorenzo Santolino20– 70
T-15Robert Wallace20– 70
T-15Martin Chalmers20– 70
T-15Mishal Alghuneim20– 70
20Esther Merino Garcia19– 71
21Hamdan Al-Ali18– 72
T-22Jean-Loup Lepan16– 74
T-22Rui Gonçalves16– 74
24Sultan Al-Balooshi15– 75
25Brett Hunt14– 76
T-26Maki Rees-Stavros13– 77
T-26Neels Theric13– 77
T-28Marwan Al-Rahmani12– 78
T-28Richárd Hodola12– 78
T-28Sarah Khuraibet12– 78
T-31Oran O’Kelly11– 79
T-31Alona Ben Natan11– 79
T-33Nicolas Horeaux10– 80
T-33Abdallah Abuaisheh10– 80
35Joanna Modrzewska9– 81
T-36Cesare Zacchetti8– 82
T-36Abdulla Lanjawi8– 82
T-38Badr Al-Hamdan7– 83
T-38Rui Ferreira7– 83
T-38Philippe Gendron7– 83
41Richard Brewer6– 84
T-42Ola Fløene5– 85
T-42Ehab Al-Hakeem5– 85
T-42Mohamed Al-Kaabi5– 85
45Thomas Childs4– 86
T-46Simon Marčič2– 88
T-46Barry Howe2– 88
T-47Yaghoob Youssef Azadi1– 89
T-47Sarath Mohan1– 89
T-47Abdulrahman Al-Sheeb1– 89
T-47Jaco Anderson1– 89
T-47Rafic Eid1– 89
T-47Ottavio Missoni Jr.1– 89
T-47Chris Hamer1– 89
T-47Mahanna Rashid Al-Naimi1– 89
T-47Francesco Catanese1– 89
T-47Alberto Bertoldi1– 89
T-47Mohamed Al-Thani1– 89
T-47Salman Mohamed1– 89
T-47Andrew Seaton1– 89
T-47Vanessa Ruck1– 89
T-47Edward Lines1– 89
T-47Elio Aglioni1– 89
T-47Michael Stokes1– 89
T-47Luca Passone1– 89
T-47Hamdan Ahmed Aljahoushi1– 89


1Kevin Giroud110Leader
T-2Haitham Al-Tuwayjiri90– 20
T-2Hani Al-Noumesi90– 20
4Juraj Varga50– 60
5Abdulaziz Ahli45– 65
6Toni Vingut32– 78
7Arnoud Dom25– 85
8Mansoor Al-Suwaidi20– 90
9Daniel Vila Vaques13– 97
T-10Kristýna Vaňková11– 99
T-10Antoine Sanchez11– 99
12Nicolas Martinez10– 100

Junior Trophy

1Jonathan Finn120Leader
2Kevin Giroud113– 7
3Alex McInnes61– 59
T-4Jean-Loup Lepan25– 95
T-4Konrad Dąbrowski25– 95
6Kristýna Vaňková16– 104

Veterans Trophy

1Pedro Bianchi Prata115Leader
2Andrew Houlihan101– 14
3Esther Merino Garcia61– 54
4Toni Vingut41– 74
T-5Paulo Cardoso33– 82
T-5Mohamed Al-Kaabi33– 82
7Adao Rafael Teixeira Marques29– 86
8Richard Brewer25– 90
T-9Cesare Zacchetti20– 95
T-9Barry Howe20– 95
T-11Rafic Eid16– 99
T-11Philippe Gendron16– 99
T-11Ola Fløene16– 99
T-14Rui Ferreira13– 102
T-14Jaco Anderson13– 102
T-14Mahanna Rashid Al-Naimi13– 102
17Francesco Catanese11– 104
18Alberto Bertoldi10– 105
19Mohamed Al-Thani9– 106
20Mansoor Al-Suwaidi8– 107
21Elio Aglioni6– 109

Women’s Trophy

1Esther Merino Garcia101Leader
2Sarah Khuraibet100– 1
3Sara Garcia Alvarez75– 26
T-4Joanna Modrzewska45– 56
T-4Mirjam Pol45– 56
T-4Alona Ben Natan45– 56
7Kristýna Vaňková16– 85
8Vanessa Ruck13– 88
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