Saudi Baja 2024: Saudi Baja to kickstart buzzing season of FIA World and Middle East Baja Cup action.

The Saudi Baja will host the opening rounds of both the FIA World and Middle East Baja Cups less than three weeks after the country hosted the Dakar Rally. The three-day event is based in the city of Ha’il and will utilise gravel and sandy terrain through the neighbouring An-Nafud desert on February 8-10.

Organised by the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF), the event has attracted a 42-vehicle entry with many cars and logistical equipment still in situ after the Dakar. Twelve cars will compete in the Ultimate group, with 12 in Challenger, three in Stock and 15 in SSV.
Yazeed Al-Rajhi and co-driver Timo Gottschalk finished runners-up in both last year’s FIA World Rally-Raid Championship and the FIA World Baja Cup and the Riyadh driver tops the Ultimate group entry in his Overdrive Racing Toyota Hilux. Al-Rajhi won his home Baja in 2022 and was a five-time winner of the event in four different cars when it formerly ran as a longer cross-country rally from a base in Ha’il.
The Belgian car preparations company has entered three further Toyotas for Argentina’s Juan Cruz Yacopini, Lithuania’s Rokas Baciuška and Saudi female driver Dania Akeel. Yacopini again teams up with Daniel Oliveras, while the team’s debutants are accompanied by Oriol Vidal and Stéphane Duplé.
Portugal’s João Ferreira and Filipe Palmeiro return to the X-Raid team to crew the solitary Mini John Cooper Works Rally Plus and the Saudi duo of Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri and Yasser Al-Hajjaj are the last of the Ultimate crews to be registered for the FIA World Baja Cup.
The remaining six teams will battle it out for points in the Middle East Baja Cup. Dubai-based Aliyyah Koloc lines-up up with the experienced French co-driver Sébastien Delaunay to lead the way in her Buggyra ZM Racing Red-lined Revo+.
They face competition from Qatar’s Abdulla Al-Rabban (Chevrolet), the Kuwaiti duo of Salem Al-Dhafeeri and Nasser Al-Ajmi in a pair of Nissan Patrols and the Saudi duo of Motab Saud Al-Qnon and Abdulaziz Al-Yaeesh in their Nissans.
Eight crews will compete for World Baja Cup points in the Challenger group for lightweight prototype machines and a further four are registered for the Middle East Baja Cup.
In the absence of the defending champion Otavio Sousa Leite, the door is wide open for the South Racing Can-Am Team duo of Diego Martinez and João Dias to chase World Baja Cup honours alongside the X-Raid Yamaha-supported duo of Germany’s Annett Quandt and Hungary’s Pal Lonyai.
Spaniard Edouardo Pons (Taurus T3 Max), Emirati Khalid Al-Jafla (Can-Am), Ecuador’s Bradley Salazar (R-X Sport Can-Am) and Brazilian privateer Gunter Hinkelmann (Taurus T3 Max) complete the line-up.
Hamad Al-Harbi was last year’s FIA Middle East Cup’s T3 champion and the Saudi teams up with Alexei Kuzmich in a bid to win the Middle East Baja Cup’s Challenger title in his Can-Am.
Competition comes from the Dark Horse Can-Am pairings of Saleh Al-Saif/Nasser Al-Kuwari and Maha Al-Hameli/Oriol Mena and Ibex Racing’s Abdullah Al-Haydan/Bader Al-Ajmi. Al-Saif won the category last year in Ha’il.
The SSV group has attracted the most interest on the opening Baja of the year: seven cars are registered for the World Baja Cup and eight for the Middle East Baja Cup.
Quaddy Racing has entered three Yamaha YXZ 1000Rs and the Italian duo of Amerigo Ventura/Mirko Bruno will chase World Baja Cup points, while Qatari team mates Ahmed Al-Kuwari and Abdullah Al-Khelaifi are registered for the Middle East Baja Cup with their co-drivers Manuel Luchesse and Abdulaziz Al-Jabri.
The experienced Kuwaiti Meshari Al-Thefiri drops down from the Challenger category to challenge for SSV honours with Mubarak Al-Dhafeeri in an SRT-run Can-Am. The South Racing Can-Am Team has entered a Maverick for Fernando Alvarez/Xavier Panseri and privateers Luis Henderson (Polaris), Alexander Boquoi (Can-Am), Ibrahim Al-Muhanna (Can-Am), Bader Al-Barrak (Polaris) and Tullio Versace (Polaris) are aiming for World Baja Cup honours.
Saudi Arabia’s trio of Abdullah Al-Shegawi, Saeed Al-Mouri and Moaaz Hariri, Emirati driver Atif Al-Zarouni and talented French girl Mathilda Lauwens complete the line-up chasing Middle East Baja Cup points in the SSV category.
A trophy is awarded at the end of the season to the driver who wins the Stock category for series production cross-country vehicles in the Middle East Baja Cup. Ahmed Al-Shegawi, Ibrahim Bensahman and Majed Al-Thunayyan will fight for honours in an all-Saudi contest in their Nissan Patrols.
This year’s Baja runs to a compact format with administration, scrutineering checks and the pre-event press conference all taking place on Wednesday (February 7).
Thursday afternoon’s ceremonial start (13.30hrs) is then followed by a 7km Prologue to determine the starting order for the desert selective sections of 302km and 179km over the following two days.

2024 Saudi Baja (leading 20 entries)

200. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Timo Gottschalk (DEU) Toyota Hilux Overdrive*
201. João Ferreira (PRT)/Filipe Palmeiro (PRT) Mini John Cooper Works Rally Plus*
202. Juan Cruz Yacopini (ARG)/Daniel Oliveras (ESP) Toyota Hilux Overdrive*
203. Rokas Baciuška (LTU)/Oriol Vidal (ESP) Toyota Hilux Overdrive*
204. Dania Akeel (SAU)/Stéphane Duplé (FRA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive*
205. Aliyyah Koloc (ARE)/Sébastien Delaunay (FRA) Red-Lined Revo+
207. Abdulla Al-Rabban (QAT)/Ali Hassan Obaid (ARE) Chevrolet Proto+
208. Motab Saud Al-Qnon (SAU)/Waleed Al-Shegawi (SAU) Nissan Patrol+
209. Salem Al-Dhafeeri (KWT)/Arif Yousef Mohammed (ARE) Nissan Patrol
210. Nasser Al-Ajmi (KWT)/Fares Al-Thefiri (KWT) Nissan Patrol+
211. Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri (SAU)/Yasser Al-Hajjaj (SAU) Nissan Patrol
214. Abdulaziz Al-Yaeesh (SAU)/Omar Al-Lahim (SAU) Nissan Patrol+
300. Hamad Al-Harbi (SAU)/Aleksei Kuzmich (ARE) Can-Am Maverick X3+
301. Saleh Al-Saif (SAU)/Nasser Al-Kuwari (QAT) G Rally Team OT3+
302. Diego Martinez (ARG)/Sergio Lafuente (URY) Can-Am Maverick X3*
303. Annett Quandt (DEU)/Annie Seel (SWE) Yamaha YXZ 1000R Turbo*
304. Khalid Al-Jafla (ARE)/Andrei Rudnitski (LTU) Can-Am Maverick X3*
305. Eduardo Pons (ESP)/Jaume Betriu (ESP) Taurus T3 Max*
306. João Dias (BRA)/João Ferriera (PRT) Can-Am Maverick X3*
307. Pal Lonyai (HUN)/Dmytro Tsyro (UKR) Yamaha YXZ 1000R Turbo*
*denotes registered for FIA World Cup

+ denotes registered for FIA Middle East Cup

Timetable of events

Wednesday, February 7
Administration checks, Baja HQ, Ha’il 07.00-20.00 hrs
Scrutineering checks, Baja HQ, Ha’il 08.00-22.00 hrs
Pre-event press conference, Baja HQ, Ha’il 19.00 hrs

Thursday, February 8
Ceremonial start, Maghwat 13.30 hrs
Prologue (7km) 15.00 hrs

Friday, February 9
Leg 1 (302km) 07.30 hrs onwards

Saturday, February 10
Leg 2 (179km) 07.30 hrs onwards
Post-event press conference, Baja HQ, Ha’il 17.30 hrs
Prize giving ceremony, Maghwat 19.30 hrs

Source: FIA
Photo: // Rally-Raid Network