Red Bull athlete Mohammed Al Balooshi is a Red Bull motocross and desert rally rider, and the first Emirati to take part in the Dakar Rally. For the third article of his monthly column Balooshi talks about his favourite places in the world to get on his bike.
I’ve been lucky enough to race in so many places around the world. Just last week I thinking about this when I was racing in Spain, which was supposed to be summery conditions but there was a thunderstorm a few days before the race so it was muddy and wet and not easy. When you train in the UAE it’s hard to prepare for ground like that, but I enjoyed it, and I’ve enjoyed racing on other terrain around the world. Here are my favourites…
It’s very difficult to pick a number one because I’ve ridden in so many places but the UAE desert is probably my favourite because within the desert there are a variety of different terrains. For instance, Liwa is open with big dunes so the riding style is different than riding in other areas but there are a lot of different types of vegetation within the UAE.
The motocross track in Bahrain is great and I love going there. It’s a sandy course but it’s thick sand with lots of fun jumps and I look forward to racing it every year. Throughout my career I’ve always got a good result on this track and I still get excited to race there. In fact I still get butterflies in my stomach the night before I race there.
I rode it for the first time in my life for the Dakar rally and the dunes there are even bigger than Liwa. I think it’s because they sit at the base of mountains so they are over 2,000 metres high. I remember when I was on the road section and I could see these massive dunes in the distance and I thought they were the mountains, that’s how big they were, it was such a unique experience riding there.
I’m more of a desert rider so most of my best riding is done outside of Europe, plus it isn’t blessed with many sandy deserts. I have done a lot of training a lot in Belgium though, and I actually didn’t enjoy it to begin with because it was muddy and the sand is tough but by the end of my training I was having a lot of fun there.
Oman’s Al Faisal Al Zubair and Khalid Al Wahaibi fought their way back from lowly qualifying positions because of a team tyre choice error to finish the fifth round of the Porsche Mobil 1 Super Cup in 17th and 24th positions respectively in Hockenheim on Sunday.
Al Zubair, of the Lechner Racing Team Middle East team, passed several drivers in an impressive run through the tail end of the field and managed to make up nine places from his original starting position in just 14 laps.
Al Wahaibi also passed several back-markers early in the race before losing a couple of positions near the end after tackling much of the race with a slow puncture that hampered his progress.
England’s Nick Yelloly took full advantage of his pole position to lead the processional race at the front from start to finish. Mattia Drudi finished second and defending champion Michael Ammermuller moved up from fifth to round off the podium places.
Al Zubair said: “It was a good race. It was unfortunate that I started in 26th but I had a lot of pace and we made up 10 positions. There were three guest drivers as well so we definitely made it into the points. We made a few good moves. It’s not the easiest track to overtake on either.”
Al Wahaibi added: “It was quite a difficult race in terms of results. I started P29 due to the mistake we had in qualifying with the wet tyres. From then on I knew it was just about getting through the race and doing as much as I could and gaining as much experience as I could.
“I had a slow puncture, which made it difficult for me, but I managed to get up to P23 with the slow puncture that hampered me right through the race. I am happy I got it across the line in the end with the puncture.
“That’s what I told the team I would do. P24 is not too bad considering the circumstances with the qualifying mistake and the puncture. This one happened from the start and it got worse as the race went on.”
Al Zubair and Al Wahaibi lined up in 26th and 29th after the team’s tyre choice error in a drying qualifying session on Saturday. Yelloly was on pole position for the 14-lap race from Mikael Pedersen, Drudi, Thomas Preining and Ammermuller.
The leading quintet held station through the opening lap, but it was a good first lap for the Omani duo and they climbed to 22nd and 24th. Drudi managed to overtake Pedersen and snatch second place on lap three, where Al Zubair climbed a further place to 21st.
There were no changes at the top of the leaderboard through five laps, although Al Zubair moved in front of Richard Heistand to snatch 20th overall.
Al Wahaibi moved up to 23rd on the next lap.
Ammermuller made his move on the seventh lap and surged into third position behind Yelloly and Drudi and at the expense of Pedersen and Preining. The eighth lap was a good one for both Al Zubair and Al Wahaibi and the Omani duo continued their progression, with Al Zubair moving up to 18th and Al-Wahaibi snatching 22nd.
Al Wahaibi then lost a place to Josh Webster on the 11th lap and slipped back to 23rd .
Al Zubair climbed to 17th on the last lap, as Yelloly held on to confirm the win and Al Wahaibi passed the chequered flag in 24th after losing a place to Heistand in the closing minutes with the puncture.
Action in the Porsche Mobil 1 Super Cup resumes in Hungary this weekend.
Dubai-born Ed Jones unleashed an impressive drive in the Iowa Corn 300 as he pulled off almost 70 overtakes to finish 13th on a day when extreme tyre degradation cost him a higher result.
The 23-year-old shrugged off a front wing adjustment to place 10th in the opening free practice session on Saturday, before posting a two-lap average speed of 178.720mph to line up eighth on the grid for the 300-lap race.
Behind the wheel of his Dallara-Honda single-seater, the 2017 IndyCar ‘Rookie of the Year’ subsequently improved again to sixth in final practice, leaving him feeling positive about his race day prospects.
On race day, the former European F3 Open champion stormed his way through from 19th up to seventh by lap 86, but tyre issues restricted him to a frustrating 13th place at the chequered flag.
“It was a tough day in the car,” said Jones, who is being coached this year by multiple IndyCar champion and Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti. “I felt comfortable in the car for the race, but unfortunately the tyre degradation was much greater than we had expected. I think looking at the results, the teams that tested at Iowa last month really had the upper hand.”
The former Dubai English Speaking College and Dubai College pupil currently sits 13th in the IndyCar Series standings on 222 points, 189 points behind leader Scott Dixon of New Zealand.
Next up for Jones is the Honda Indy Toronto on the downtown streets of the Canadian city this weekend.