Emirati motocross rider Mohammed Balooshi was among several competitors who suffered on Day 1 of the Oilibya Rally in Morocco, the final round of the FIM Cross-Country Rally Championship season.
Heavy rains that hit the southern regions of Morocco over the past weeks made parts of the course inaccessible as well as rendering the terrain damaging to both times and equipment.
Many of the sport’s big names were unable to complete the stage and will have to work overnight on their rides in order to restart on Tuesday.
Balooshi was no exception. “It was a very tough day,” he said. “The terrain was tricky and very rocky, which makes it really dangerous to ride at high speed.
“I’m glad we made it back without major problems, and that the bike didn’t suffer much.
“This is only the beginning, and it’s important that we are in good shape. We still have four more days and another 2,000 kilometres to go.”
Wheels and tyres paid the highest toll on the rocks washed out by the torrential rain, leaving many riders to make repairs by the side of the road.
Balooshi struggled with visibility due to his starting position and was well down the field, despite making it to the finish line.
“I rode all day in other’s riders dust, lots of dust, and it was difficult to catch up on the top 10 riders that started in front of me, with no visibility and a terrain that is like a minefield of rocks,” he said.
“Most competitors have been here several times before. But it’s a completely new terrain for me, and I prefer not to take unnecessary risks on the first day.”
Despite not being able to take part in all rounds of the championship – he missed the traditional Italian Sardegna Rally in June after not being able to secure the sponsorship – Balooshi was sixth in the world rankings.
His goal in Morocco is to end the season as the world’s top privateer. “I feel very proud of what we have achieved this year. We are a small team with a very limited budget compared to the leading teams.”