Amman, 18 March 2021 - The Jordan Baja gets underway in Aqaba on Thursday evening and sees Jordan Motorsport hosting its first international motor sporting event since September 2019.
Competitors from 15 nations will take part in the fourth round of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas, round two of the FIM Bajas World Cup and a National Baja running behind the two international status events.
The FIA T4 category for modified production cross-country side-by-side (SxS) vehicles is one of the fastest growing categories in off-road rallying and five of the world’s leading protagonists in the category will line-up at the start of the Jordan Baja.
Qatar’s Khalifa Saleh al-Attiyah has a great opportunity to challenge for a podium finish.
The brother of the illustrious Nasser Saleh al-Attiyah — a three-time Dakar Rally winner and 13-time Jordan Rally winner — has already finished ninth overall in the T4 section at the Dakar this year and secured victory at the second of the Ha’il Bajas last December. The Doha-based driver will be partnered by the experienced Frenchman Xavier Panseri for the first time.
What also helps Khalifa Saleh al-Attiyah is the absence of his T4 competitors Pavel Lebedev, Saeed al-Mouri and Laia Sanz, who have already scored points this season in T4.
Frenchman Claude Fournier has taken part in the opening three rounds of the 2021 Baja series in Russia, Dubai and Saudi Arabia, and arrives in Aqaba with a 19.5-point advantage over Saudi Arabia’s Saleh al-Saif in the standings. He first took part in the Dakar Rally back in 1991 and won the rookie category.
Fournier was victorious on the opening round and third and fourth places in the two Middle East events have given the Can-Am driver a solid foundation on which to build his title challenge with Polish co-driver Szymon Gospodarczyk.
“This is my first time in Jordan, as it was cancelled last year,” said Fournier. “I am told it is a very difficult challenge, particularly for the navigators, and it is also one where there is a lot of punctures due to rocks.
“Of course, I hope to win, but I know it will be tough as the other drivers are very good. I am one of the oldest guys competing, at 69, but I am feeling fit and strong. I hope I can do well here to help me win the World Championship and also to set me up well for the five European events coming up next.”
Al-Saif is, perhaps, the favourite on the T4 starting list in Aqaba after claiming maximum points at the recent round in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province. Technical issues meant that he could only collect points for fifth place in Dubai, but he delivered a terrific performance two weeks ago to finish third overall and first in T4.
Meshari al-Thefiri has been a regular visitor to Jordan to take part in the Dead Sea-based special stage round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship and has a perfect opportunity to overhaul al-Saif and put the pressure on Fournier in the title race.
The Kuwaiti will be taking part in the Jordan Baja for the first time at the wheel of the second of five South Racing-built Can-Ams on the entry list, and teams up with Qatar’s Nasser al-Kuwari for the second time this season.
“This is the fourth round of the Baja Championship and we are third overall and half a point behind Saleh Al-Saif,” said al-Thefiri. “Our programme is to compete in all the rounds, finish the championship and try and be champions in T4.”
UAE-based Thomas Bell drives the fifth of the Can-Ams in Jordan alongside Spanish navigator Armand Monleón. The duo tackled the recent Sharqiyah International Baja and set some competitive times before their T4 challenge came to an abrupt end on a treacherously muddy section of terrain near the coast.
Thursday, competitors will carry out their pre-event scrutineering and administration checks from 09.00hrs, after strict Covid-19 testing protocols were applied before individuals could gain access to the service park and rally headquarters.