Sunday, January 4, 2009

Hail Baja beckons!

On 2nd January, the SAMF issued the following press release:


2009 Ha’il Baja will not count for FIA Baja championship points

RIYADH (Saudi Arabia): A host of Saudi Arabian drivers have entered the forthcoming Ha’il Saudi Baja, which takes place in the north-central region of the Kingdom on January 26th-29th. The entry will be dominated by drivers from the host nation and other GCC countries this year.

The event is being organised by the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation under the patronage of HRH Prince Saud Bin Abdul Mohsen Bin Abdul Aziz, Governor of Ha’il, President of the Supreme Commission for Ha’il Development and the Head of the Supreme Commission of the Ha’il Rally.

The FIA, motor sport’s governing body, have also confirmed that the 2009 Ha'il event will not count for FIA Baja championship points because of the restriction on female competitors taking part in a motor sport event in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This means that competitors taking part in the FIA Baja series will have to wait until the Northern Forest Rally in Russia to kick-start their points-scoring campaign at the end of February.

"This decision by the FIA is regrettable, but totally out of our hands," insisted Mishaal Al-Sudairy, chairman of the organising committee. "However, we will continue to advance and improve our event which crosses some of the most challenging terrain in the world, with a view to re-entering the FIA series in 2010. We have good support from local drivers and several teams from other GCC countries have expressed their desire to compete in Ha’il.

“We received terrific feedback from several of the world’s top teams last year when we were a round of the FIA Baja series for the first time and that gives us great confidence going forward into 2010 and beyond. We have the scope in Saudi Arabia to run some of the most difficult and admired cross-country events in the world and this small set-back will not sway us from planning our future path in off-road rallying.”

What this means is that SAMF has informed the FIA that they will not allow Sheila’s participation, and the FIA has removed the event from the Baja Championship – which is what they said they would do. So if any of our readers were hoping to score Championship points at Hail, I’m sorry.

I had already started canvassing for a substitute (male) co-driver, and after numerous rejections, and with time running out, today finally Lee Marshall said he’d do it. Lee (pictured here driving the ‘toast-rack’) and I were partners on the Sweep Team for the 2006 UAE Desert Challenge, and we hit it off immediately. Now the strength of that friendship is about to be tested! Lee has plenty of off-roading experience although he’s never competed in motorsport, and he’s a keen cyclist and triathlete (i.e. a lot fitter than me) so he definitely gets the first turn on the shovel if we have to dig!

So our revised entry is going in to SAMF today, and hopefully the required visit visas won’t take too long to come through – we have exactly 20 days to get ready for our planned departure on 24th January. We’re also trying for a visa for Sheila as support crew – we’ll see what happens. So far they have 14 entries (of which only two are T2) and the details are here.

Our ‘to-do’ list is now more administrative than technical, although the QuickAir 3 compressor on the race car has died so I am getting a dive tank fitted instead, for which I need a regulator. The Prado needs a road pass for Saudi as well as a new CD player (it’s a long drive), the race car needs its annual test, and Lee needs a rally licence.

But at least I have a co-driver – welcome to NewTrix Racing, Lee!