Pordenone: Pordenone in Italy will host the third event of the 2019 FIA World Cup for Cross Country Bajas later this week, where AZ Racing’s Abdullah Al Zubair and Faisal Al Raisi will resume their challenge for the T3 class championship title.
More than two months since he was last in action, BRP Can-Am Maverick X3 pilot Al Zubair will make a welcome return to the international rally-raid scene as he and co-driver Al Raisi reunite for the trip to Italy, and they’re focused on delivering a strong result.
In actual fact, it has been over three months since the second round of the Baja season in Dubai – Al Zubair’s most recent outing was in the sister FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup in Abu Dhabi back in April – and Al Raisi returns for the first time since the opening Baja of the year in Russia.
Heading into this week’s 26th edition of the Italian Baja, which begins with the Ceremonial Start on Friday, 21st June, Al Zubair and AZ Racing are second in the T3 class championship and determined to battle for a second 2019 podium.
In the first Baja of the season in Russia’s snow-filled Northern Forests, Al Zubair and Al Raisi took a richly deserved podium with second in T3 after mounting a superb fightback from early issues. For round two in the Al Qudra desert of Dubai, Al Raisi was replaced by Qatar’s Nasser Al Kuwari and the AZ Racing entry overcame a variety of mechanical dramas to salvage sixth in T3.
As well as relishing the prospect of being back in action after such a lengthy break, Al Zubair and Al Raisi are also delighted to be proudly flying the flag for Oman on the Italian Baja – the 2019 event marks the first time competitors from the Sultanate have been part of the rally in its 26 year history.
Round three will also bring another fresh challenge, after the snow of Russia and the sand dunes of Dubai. Pordenone’s stages through the Italian countryside will take in gravel roads, dirt tracks and also water hazards which will all need to be carefully navigated and attacked.
Abdullah Al Zubair: “I’m very excited to be back racing after a two month break, the summer will be very busy as we have approximately five Bajas in two months. I have taken the break to work on my fitness and mental strength and I am very happy with what I have achieved, so I’m ready to be back racing. This will be my first time racing in Italy, and with a lot of local champions, but I am confident we can achieve a podium. Of course, we will be wanting to win as we are now second in the championship and we have our eyes on the main goal of winning the title.”
Faisal Al Raisi: “I’m very excited to be back racing in Europe. I’ve taken this time over the last few months to improve my fitness and endurance levels, as well as going over the road books to better my navigation and communication skills. I’m really looking forward to Italy and, hopefully, all this preparation will bear fruit soon.”
Leg One of the Italian Baja will get underway at 17.45 (local time) this Friday, 21st June, with the Ceremonial Start preceding the first Super Special Stage.
On Saturday, 22nd June, Leg Two will feature three more stages and on Sunday, 23rd June, the rally will reach its conclusion with the final two stages. Competitors are expected to arrive back at rally HQ around 14.00 (local time).