The UAE champion will be the only Emirati competitor representing the UAE at the legendary race.
It’s Rally Time for the global crème-de-la-crème of off-road racing! A full year has passed by since Emirati star rider Mohammed Al Balooshi became the first UAE National to complete a Dakar Rally in the motorcycle’s category, and now It is time for the 2019 Cross Country season to kick off in style with a revamped version of the race which anticipates to be tougher, and with more drama than its precedent editions. Dakar Rally 2019’s action will start today in South America with the best of the best riders and teams literally battling all odds for a place at the finish ramp.
The local and Arab Champion Mohammed Al Balooshi is a man of records and having pioneered in the Motocross, and Off-Road racing in the region for over 15 years, he has more “First ever” and “Only UAE National” in his annals, than any other Arab rider. Adding to this record, he is once again the only Emirati competitor participating in Dakar 2019, having the honor to take the colors of the UAE flag to the remote lands of Peru, where millions are expected to follow the race during the next 10 days.
This is the second year in a row that the race will start in Peru, which will allow to have the chance of enjoying a little familiarity with the terrain in the opening stage, but as always, the Dakar will have challenges and difficulties beyond imagination, and the circuit is poised to pose different obstacles for those involved.
The 41st edition of this legendary rally, “The Bone Breaker” they call it, will be raced over the course of 10 stages and will no doubt be once again a platform for drama with competitors and machines pushed beyond their physical and mental limits day after day. The details on the route and dangers hidden are unknown to the contestants, which is typical of Cross Country racing where the route is secret, and only revealed to the competitors a few hours before the start of the action every day, but with a full Peruvian race ahead, and considering the geography of the areas the race will cross, the terrain is expected to be primarily made up of sand, with large extensions of desert and high dunes -very soft after a dry and very warm summer in the Southern Hemisphere- which will make things difficult for the competitors, particularly in the motorcycle category.
Despite the route being the shortest in the event’s history, the technicality of the terrain and of the race itself with super tricky navigation, will make this edition the most difficult yet, particularly for the bikes. Motorcycle competitors need to combine high speed riding, with navigation, and without a co-driver to read notes and assist with pointing the direction to follow, riders have more than enough to keep them on their toes, at all times. The physical fatigue and dehydration they suffer during the long hours of racing -which affect concentration-, combined with the fact that the bikes do not provide the riders with a chassis around them to protect their bodies like cars do, add on to make a combo only apt for the brave.
Anticipating these elements and with such a technical race ahead, Dakar Rally organizers have introduced and innovation to their regulations, in the shape of a “second chance half-marathon” mode, to give a second chance to competitors who break down early on. There is no engine or motorcycle in the world capable of surviving 10 days of gruelling racing, at full speed, and in extreme weather conditions, for over more than 5,000Km of soft sand…
This will be Mohammed Al Balooshi’s 3rd Dakar Rally. In 2012 he was forced to retired with an injury after a harsh crash, and then last year he was able to finish the race in Argentina in 32nd position, becoming the best position an Emirati and Arab competitor ever achieved on two wheels, in this legendary rally.
2018 was an exceptional year for Mohammed; in August he clinched the FIM Bajas World Cup Title after finishing 1st in world ranking and later, in November 2018, he was awarded HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Sport Creative Award as “UAE’s best athlete of the year”.
Balooshi expressed “Remembering last year’s Dakar, and the challenges I went through, from tricky navigation when your body and mind are exhausted beyond all limits, riding in very high altitude which numbs your senses, you can’t breathe well and it’s impossible to concentrate and keep focus, the lack of Oxygen when racing at high speed, extremely cold weather with snow some days, and over 40 degrees the next day, crashes, breaking my finger and then having to race for days with a broken bone, and so many more… No doubt this is the toughest race I’ve ever gone through; but in the end, I had a clear objective, so I always kept reminding myself that I needed to finish the rally at any cost to raise the UAE flag at the finish ramp.”
A determined Balooshi completed by saying: “Dakar 2019 should be no different, my ultimate goal is once again to reach the finish line and raise the UAE flag. The pressure is for sure higher this time as I will be the only Emirati to represent the UAE; but I have prepared for this all year, and my strategy is clear: First, to finish the rally; and only then, to look at my position”
Mahir Badri, the strategist behind the Emirati star Mohammed Al Balooshi’s international racing programme, and Sports2 Managing Director mentioned: “Everyone in the industry know that competing in Dakar is very challenging, but then no one mentions how tough is to get there. The countless hours of physical training involved, technical riding practice, navigation, and so on that are ongoing and part of Mohammed’s daily life. And then there is other huge part of racing which may be even less obvious to spectators, which is the financials behind it, and this element is of huge importance. We are blessed to have the support of the sponsors who believe in Mohammed’s capabilities, in terms of riding and physical skills, but also those that share the same human values that make him such an awesome athlete. Determination, hard work, pride for being Emirati, for our leaders and for the beacon of light our country has become, Mohammed’s outstanding capability for overcoming obstacles, and the need to always keep learning and taking his sport further than any other local has done, and always giving back to his people, the constant strive for supporting the development of the sport amongst the younger generations…. We need to thank the supporters who partner with us, making these achievements possible, and accompanying Mohammed every time he sets a new milestone; we wouldn’t be able to do it without them, so our gratitude goes to HE Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of the Automobile & Touring Club of the UAE (ATCUAE), RedBull who has supported Mohammed for 15 years making him the first ever RedBull athlete in the region, X-Dubai, GMC Arabia, G-Shock who chose Mohammed Al Balooshi as the first Emirati athlete to have a Casio G-Shock limited edition watch in his honour, Maximus Air, and MX Academy. We at Sports2, are just the soldiers working behind the scene, for Mohammed to shine on the bike.”
- The 41st edition of the Dakar Rally starts today with racing action, and takes place from 6th to 17th this month, running across Peru in South America. This year the race will be held entirely in Peru, making it the first time in history that one country has hosted the whole event.
- 324 vehicles are competing, after successfully passing the technical scrutineering in Lima, Peru: 160 bikes/quads, 164 cars/UTVs/Trucks. A total of 551 competitors, from 61 countries. Hundreds more vehicles will be involved in support.
Dakar 2019 route
6/1/19 – Starting ramp / Lima
7/1/19 – Stage 1 / Lima – Pisco: 331 km (SS: 84 km)
8/1/19 – Stage 2 / Pisco – San Juan de Marcona: 553km (SS: 342km)
9/1/19 – Stage 3 / San Juan de Marcona – Arequipa: 798km (SS: 331km)
10/1/19 – Stage 4 / Arequipa – Tacna: (C,SxS,T) 664km (SS: 351km) + Arequpia – Moquegua: (B,Q) 511km (SS: 351km)
11/1/19 – Stage 5 / Tacna – Arequipa: (C,SxS,T) 714km (SS: 450km) + Moquega – Arequipa: (B,Q) 776km (SS: 345km)
12/1/19 – Rest Day / Arequipa
13/1/19 – Stage 6 / Arequipa – San Juan de Marcona: (C,SxS,T) 810km (SS: 290km) + (B,Q) 838km (SS: 317km)
14/1/19 – Stage 7 / San Juan de Marcona – San Juan de Marcona: 387km (SS: 323km)
15/1/19 – Stage 8 / San Juan de Marcona – Pisco: 575km (SS: 360km)
16/1/19 – Stage 9 / Pisco – Pisco: (B,C,Q,SxS) 409km (SS: 313km) + (T) 407km (SS: 311km)
17/1/19 – Stage 10 / Pisco – Lima: 359km (SS: 112km)
Mb. 055 – 929 8025
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