x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

UAE trio set for unique challenge

Mohammed Al Balooshi, Abdulla Al Heraiz and Khalid Al Kendi will represent the UAE in the gruelling Dakar Rally, which begins Friday in Mar Del Plata, Argentina.

Al Balooshi to ride in motorcycle division of 8,500km event

Mohammed Al Balooshi, Abdulla Al Heraiz and Khalid Al Kendi will represent the UAE in the gruelling Dakar Rally, which begins tomorrow in Mar del Plata, Argentina.

Al Balooshi, an experienced cross-country rider, will compete in the motorbike portion of the two-week, 8,500km event that winds through Argentina, Chile and Peru before ending in Lima on January 15.

Al Heraiz and Al Kendi will team up in the car portion of the rally. More than 700 drivers and riders will compete in what is billed as the world's longest rally, including divisions for motorcycles, cars, quad-runners and trucks.

"It is truly a dream come true for me to be here in Argentina for the Dakar 2012," Al Balooshi said.

"The energy I feel now, I cannot describe enough but it is truly amazing. And this is just the start of the journey."

Al Balooshi, who has competed in Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge twice, has been training under Georges Jobe, the five-time motocross world champion from Belgium.

Al Balooshi has been the UAE's top off-road racer for past 10 years, and has been the Arab Motocross Champion three times and Middle East champion once.

This will be his first attempt at the Dakar Rally. "I consider Al Balooshi as one of the most capable athletes in the country," said Mohammed ben Sulayem, the president of the Automobile & Touring Club of the UAE.

"He takes good care of his health and fitness, and continually expands his knowledge and abilities."

Al Heraiz and Al Kendi are in the Dakar Rally for the second year. The two Emiratis finished 26th out of 55 finishers in the last race, from a field of 140 cars that started the event.

"I'm very positive they will do an amazing job and finish in a much better place than last year due to their experience with this race," Ben Sulayem said.

"Preparation for Dakar is not easy because it is a very demanding event, but we can rely on these youngsters to get good results because they are hard workers."

This will be the fourth time it has been held in South America, following a move from its traditional African staging because of security concerns.

* Agency