Saudi Arabia’s Saleh Al Saif wins the Jordan Baja in a T3 Can-Am Maverick | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile

Saudi Arabia’s Saleh Al Saif wins the Jordan Baja in a T3 Can-Am Maverick

  • gb
21.02.22

Saudi Arabia’s Saleh Al-Saif became the first ever driver of a T3 lightweight prototype vehicle to win an international FIA Baja event, when he and Russian co-driver Egor Okhotnikov guided their Can-Am Maverick X3 to victory at the Jordan Baja.

The second round of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas and the opening encounter in the Middle East series was fought out over two legs through the spectacular Martian-type landscapes of Jordan’s Wadi Rum and Wadi Araba in southern Jordan.

When pre-race favourite Yazeed Al-Rajhi broke a drive shaft on his Toyota Hilux just 12km into the first 232.71km stage in Wadi Rum, that paved the way for his fellow countryman to hit the front. Al-Saif held a comfortable overnight lead and was able to fend off a late challenge from Czech veteran Miroslav Zapletal (Ford F-150) to seal the win by the margin of 2min 56.2sec.

The win not only lifted the Saudi into second place in the FIA T3 Drivers’ Championship, but it gave him the outright lead in the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas.

Al-Saif said: “We finished this race with an outstanding result. For the first time in a Baja race a T3 vehicle finishes first overall. It took a lot of work and preparation to achieve this result and that all started last year.”

Kuwait’s Meshari Al-Thefiri and Dutchman Kees Koolen tussled for the final spot on the podium and the T4 win.

Despite competing in the Hashemite Kingdom for the first time, Koolen led his South Racing Can-Am Team rival overnight but Al-Thefiri pushed hard across the rain-soaked tracks of Wadi Araba on the final morning and managed to snatch third place and the T4 win. Al-Thefiri also earned 39 points towards his FIA T4 title challenge and now trails Russia’s Sergey Remennik by a single point in the standings.

Seventeen-year-old Aliyyah Koloc belied her lack of racing experience to finish fifth in her Buggyra ZM Racing Can-Am and second in T3, the Emirati girl finishing just over six minutes clear of sixth-placed Fernando Alvarez, one of the top contenders to compete for this year’s FIA T3 title. Alvarez duly moved to the top of the FIA T3 Drivers’ Championship after two rounds.

Russia’s Pavel Silnov, Saudi Arabia’s Saeed Al-Mouri and Dania Akeel and Russia’s Armen Puzian rounded off the top 10, with punctures plaguing several drivers and tricky navigation testing co-drivers’ skills to the limit.

After stopping for two hours to replace his broken drive shaft in Wadi Rum on leg one, Al-Rajhi recovered strongly to win the shorter second section of the stage (81.97km) and stormed to the fastest time in Wadi Araba (150.89km) on the final morning. But the time deficit was too much for the Saudi to make any in-roads into the top 10 and he reached the finish in Aqaba in 12th overall. His consolation was earning five points for winning the stage and a further five for his finishing position.

Competitors taking part in the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas now have five months before the third round of the series in northern Italy (July 8-10), although the FIA Middle East Baja series continues in Qatar on March 24th-26th.

 

2022 Jordan Baja  – final results :

1. Saleh Al-Saif (SAU)/Egor Okhotnikov (RUS) Can-Am Maverick X3                                                   6hr 34min 40.1sec

2. Miroslav Zapletal (CZE)/Marek Sykora (SVK) Ford F-150 Evo                                                                6hr 37min 36.3sec

3. Meshari Al-Thefiri (KWT)/François Cazalet (FRA) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo                              6hr 47min 25.2sec

4. Kees Koolen (NLD)/Wouter Rosegaar (NLD) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo                                      6hr 52min 13.9sec

5. Aliyyah Koloc (ARE)/Sebastien Delaunay (FRA) Can-Am Maverick DV21                                       6hr 54min 21.4sec

6. Fernando Alvarez (ESP)/Xavier Panseri (FRA) Can-Am Maverick X3                                                      7hr 00min 24.4sec

7. Pavel Silnov (RUS)/Kirill Shubin (RUS) Can-Am Maverick X3                                                              7hr 02min 34.8sec

8. Saeed Al-Mouri (SAU)/Sergio Lafuente (URY) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo                                7hr 11min 25.1sec

9. Dania Akeel (SAU)/Laurent Lichtleuchter (FRA) Can-Am Maverick X3                                            7hr 17min 00.5sec

10. Armen Puzian (RUS)/Evgenii Zagorodniuk (RUS) Can-Am Maverick X3                                          7hr 20min 21.0sec

11. Cristiano Batista (BRA)/Vladimir Grunenberg (BRA) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo                    7hr 20min 45.4sec

12. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Michael Orr (GBR) Toyota Hilux Overdrive                                                      7hr 20min 55.8sec

 

2022 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas – positions after round 2 (unofficial):

Drivers

1. Saleh Al-Saif (SAU)                                 45pts

2. Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS)                        40pts

3. Fernando Alvarez (ESP)                        33pts

4. Sergey Uspenskiy (RUS)                        32pts

5. Miroslav Zapletal (CZE)                         31pts

6. Anastasiya Nifontova (RUS)                 27pts

 

T3

1. Fernando Alvarez (ESP)                        64pts

2. Saleh Al-Saif (SAU)                                 56pts

3. Pavel Silnov (RUS)                                  47pts

4. Anastasiya Nifontova (RUS)                 40pts

5. Armen Puzian (RUS)                              34pts

6. Dania Akeel (SAU)                                  30pts

 

T4

1. Sergei Remennik (RUS)                         40pts

2. Meshari Al-Thefiri (KWT)                      39pts

2. Yousef Al-Dhaif (SAU)                           39pts

4. Miguel Angel Valero (ESP)                   33pts

5. Kees Koolen (NLD)                                 31pts

6. Saeed Al-Mouri (SAU)                           23pts