Red Bull athlete Mohammed Al Balooshi is a motocross and desert rally rider, and the first Emirati to take part in the Dakar Rally. In an exclusive interview with Sport360 he tells us how he became the first Emirati to claim the FIM crown.
Physically, riding in Hungary was challenging because mud was getting everywhere so the bike is a lot heavier. If you take a desert rider, like myself, and race on mud, it makes you fatigue a lot faster than someone who is used to riding on that surface. It’s not natural for me, so the body and mind felt it a lot more, as I was out of my comfort zone. My body gets tried in mud because you try to ride, it’s not coming naturally, and that’s an issue. You need to be in Europe really to get used to mud riding.
Saying that, my training always stays the same, I make sure I peak at the right time because sometimes people over-train and they don’t get the results. They’re already burned out before the race has even begun.
On the final round I didn’t have much pressure because my task was to finish in the top eight to secure the title and I managed to do that. The biggest pressure was that the bike might not make it, so that was on my mind during the last 100kms, because the race was mine to lose, but the machine can always let you down. I had some technical problems with the bike that I tried to fix and I tried not to go all out because I had it all to lose.
The rain made it hard though, because no matter how much it rains in the desert we don’t get mud so you can’t prepare for it. So I lack the technique needed for riding on it and those guys have a lot more experience than I do on that terrain. It’s a lot of small details you need to know to be able to handle muddy surfaces.
In terms of my recovery fitness I’m already back in the gym, I did a 35km ride in the bike in the gym to loosen up a few days after the event. For me the training week is the hardest part, the race is the easier bit. When I’m training I give it my all and try to peak at the exact right time. The race is hard but really the hard work is done before you even start.
I’m going to be doing local races next so I’m looking forward to this and I’m hoping that’ll get my fitter in time for Dakar 2019. I like to be busy with training and riding though; it’s a great life, full of excitement.
Mohammed Al Balooshi became the UAE’s first FIM world champion by clinching the Bajas World Championship in Hungary.
The Emirati’s achievement goes beyond his country’s borders as well, making him the first Arab to ever win a world title in a motorcycle FIM off-road series.
By winning in Hungary, Al Balooshi – who earlier this year became the first Emirati to complete the Dakar Rally – sets yet another milestone for the motorsport in the UAE, reinforcing once again his role as pioneer and a constant figure in the development of the sport in the country.
“I am very happy to have been able to put this medal to the achievements of the UAE. Our country came a long way in motorsport and it’s an honour to be able to make this humble contribution, and a motive of great pride to have my name next to the UAE flag, engraved forever in the FIM records.
“I hope to also represent the Arab world well and do justice to so many great athletes who work hard and keep pushing their limits, always following their passion. I’m struggling with words right now to describe how proud and happy I feel for me and my team, for my country, for the sport.”
On the last day in Veszpren, the picturesque city hosting the final round of the World Cup in Hungary, Al Balooshi had to deal with rain and changing terrain from slippery mud, along with rocky dry areas. He also had to battle mechanical problem, struggling with his KTM’s petrol pump all day, which continued failing when it touched water.
The obstacles resulted in a penalty for the Emirati, but the advantage he had built up earlier in the race and season allowed him to sustain his position atop the standings.
Mahir Badri, managing director at Sports2, the engine behind Balooshi’s International race programme, said: “It took us years working as a team, we faced a lot of challenges, and struggled a lot to reach to this point. This achievement is the result of very hard work, a lot of talent, and a strong belief.
“Even when it looked that we couldn’t go on, we never stopped believing in the project, in the talented and professional athlete we had, and in the dream of taking the UAE to a scene that has been ruled by Europeans throughout its history. We believed we could win this for our people and today the dream is a reality. We are very proud of working with such an amazing athlete like Mohammed who has strong
moral and professional values.”
Red Bull athlete Mohammed Al Balooshi is a motocross and desert rally rider, and the first Emirati to take part in the Dakar Rally. For the last article of his monthly column Balooshi talks about what it’s like living life on the road.
I spend a lot of time travelling to different places and when we’re on the road the days have to be very well organised, everything has to happen at a certain time. Usually, in the mornings, I do some warm up exercises and have breakfast and then go out on the bikes for a test run and fixing a few things.
A few days before a race I wake up very early in the morning, before sunrise and go to the paddock and prepare my things. I always carry some food with me, like dates for energy. Then I’ll prepare my camel pack with water and check my road book and drink a can of Red Bull. The following day will be the same, more testing and training and by the time you come back to the hotel you sleep until the race day. We are riding at really high speeds for long periods so you need to concentrate, usually the race day is quite long, it’s an average of 5-6 hours on a smaller race and once I’m done I eat and sleep.
One of my favourite trips is Bahrain as it’s not very stressful because I know what I need from previous years racing there. I have all the things set up upon arrival, like my bike is prepared in the UAE. We take about eight hours on the road and it’s a lot of fun with the boys. There’s a lot of laughter and goofing around. Once we are there we’ll eat to together and then the team will split up.
Personally I like to get into the zone mentally and just think about the race. On the race day you meet all the other riders coming from different countries and so you have to remain focused. You don’t want to be rude but other riders are thinking the same, we’re all concentrating on the task at hand, socialising can be done afterwards. Although, I often travel back the same day of the race and sometimes I’ve even had a race in Dubai and then driven eight hours to Bahrain to race the next day. It was not easy, but we do it because it’s all worth it to ride the bikes and I love what I do.