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Broken steering arm spoils Omani duo's podium chance
June 24, 2019 | 7:54 PM
by Agencies
Round four of the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Bajas will take place just under five weeks from now in Aragon, Spain. Beginning on Friday, 26th July, the event will conclude on Sunday, 28th July.
 
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Pordenone: Omani sportsmen Abdullah Al Zubair and Faisal Al Raisi experienced huge frustration during round three of the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Bajas in Italy over the weekend, when a big push for the T3 class podium was undone on the final stage of the action-packed rally.

Three months since the previous round of the 2019 season in Abu Dhabi, the AZ Racing duo were understandably raring to go for the 26th staging of the Italian Baja in Pordenone and they performed very strongly across the opening two and a half days – Al Zubair’s first time competing in Italy.

On the last stage of the gravel Baja on Sunday, 23rd June, the frustration of a broken steering arm, which then resulted in the AZ Racing Can-Am Maverick X3 making contact with a tree, spoiled realistic hopes of a top five result and even a potential podium challenge.

Following the Ceremonial Start on Friday, 21st June, the opening 12-kilometre stage was contested in Murlis where the AZ Racing duo raced to fifth in the T3 class and within just a couple of seconds of the class podium battle.



However, a penalty for a rival crew then elevated Al Zubair and Al Raisi’s South Racing engineered car into fourth position. Saturday, 22nd June, featured three stages in Barbeano, each run over a distance of 79 kilometres, providing a great test and a significant challenge. Ending the first run seventh in T3, becoming sixth on corrected times due to the penalty for Michal Goczal and Szymon Gospodarczyk, on stage three AZ Racing was an improved fourth in T3 which translated to sixth overall in class.

The fourth stage, the final run of day two, was less straightforward for the Omanis as they ended eighth in T3. Overall, Al Zubair and Al Raisi finished Saturday’s action seventh in class just four minutes adrift of the top five.



Sunday’s action featured the final two stages at Gradisca, around 80 kilometres each, and the AZ Racing team-mates delivered their best showing of the weekend on the first run to end in second position, just four seconds shy of the win. Importantly, it lifted them into sixth overall for the rally.

Going into the sixth and final stage just a couple of minutes behind the top five and within 11 minutes of the T3 podium, Al Zubair and Al Raisi’s hopes of a strong finish to the Baja were then cruelly dashed on the final morning as a result of the steering arm failure. Incurring time penalties as a result, the duo finished the Italian Baja in seventh place in T3.

Abdullah Al Zubair: “It was good to be back in the car after a long break, although the Italian Baja terrain was tougher than I expected and the weather was not the best this weekend. We were happy with our performance and I believe we progressed well. “Of course, we’re very unhappy with the retirement and to leave Italy without any points but this is racing and these things happen sometimes.

We go to Spain next month with high hopes as usual and a determination to challenge as strongly as we can.” Round four of the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Bajas will take place just under five weeks from now in Aragon, Spain. Beginning on Friday, 26th July, the event will conclude on Sunday, 28th July.

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