Bittersweet outing for Zubair-Raisi in Italy

The Omani rally duo of Abdullah al Zubair and Faisal al Raisi had a bittersweet experience at the Italian Baja, round three of the 2019 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas, which concluded in Pordenone on Sunday.

Competing for the first time, the AZ Racing duo impressed in stages and climbed up to second position but collided with a tree on the final morning and lost out on a potential sixth place in T3 class. Racing under South Racing banner, the Omani duo ended up seventh in T3 class under demanding weather conditions across river beds and melt water gravel plains in north-eastern Italy.

The AZ Racing duo performed strongly across the opening two and a half days. On the opening day on Friday, the AZ Racing duo raced to fifth in the T3 class. However, a penalty for a rival crew elevated Zubair and Raisi to fourth position.

The next day featured three stages and the team secured sixth, fourth and eighth spots. Overall, the duo finished seventh in class on day two.

Sunday’s action featured the final two stages, and the AZ Racing teammates delivered their best showing on the first run to end in second position, just four seconds shy of the win. Importantly, it lifted the duo into sixth overall for the rally.

Going into the sixth and final stage just a couple of minutes behind the top five and within 11 minutes of the T3 podium, the duo’s hopes of a strong finish was dashed as a result of the steering arm failure. Incurring time penalties as a result, the duo finished seventh and overall 14th.

The South Racing Can-Am Team duo of Fedor Vorobyev and Kirill Shubin won the T3 category in a time 6hr9min11sec.

Zubair said, “The Italian Baja terrain was tougher than I expected and the weather was not the best. We were happy with our performance and I believe we progressed well. Of course, we’re very unhappy with the retirement and to finish without any points but this is racing and such things happen sometimes.”

Round four of the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Bajas will take place in Aragon, Spain, from July 26-28.

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