The South Racing Can-Am Team enjoyed another successful challenge for honours at a Middle Eastern round of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas, with the team’s four Can-Am Maverick X3s finishing second, third, fourth and fifth in the FIA T4 category behind a fifth South Racing-built machine.
Kuwait’s Meshari Al-Thefiri led the way for the German-based team and reached the finish of the two-day Baja – held on a demanding route through the majestic deserts of the world renowned Wadi Rum – in second place, 40min 24sec behind Saudi Arabia’s category winner Saleh Al-Saif.
Better known as the filming location for such Hollywood blockbusters as Martian, Star Wars and Aladdin, the deserts played host to the FIA series under strict Covid-19 protocols and UAE-based Briton Thomas Bell rounded off the podium places in his Can-Am. French veteran Claude Fournier finished fourth and Qatar’s Khalifa Saleh Al-Attiyah recovered from first day delays to finish fifth with the quickest time on the last stage.
Al-Thefiri teamed up with Qatar’s Nasser Al-Kuwari and he benefited from problems for Al-Attiyah to win the Wadi Rum stage by 49 seconds from Al-Saif. He found the navigation tricky on the second stage and ceded the advantage to Al-Saif, although the Kuwaiti enjoyed the stunning terrain and the challenge of the stages on the last day and maintained his strong title challenge with second overall. A harsh 45-minute time penalty imposed after the second stage cost the Kuwaiti a potential victory.
“The rally is excellent but we had a rocky stage today and drove carefully during it,” said Al-Thefiri. “Saleh (Al-Saif) was in front of us. We had a puncture and lowered our pace. I am very satisfied with the result and the performance in Jordan.”
Dubai-based Bell and Spaniard Armand Monleón completed the first selective section in third place, 2min 51sec behind Al-Thefiri, and consolidated their third place in the category on the shorter second stage. They enjoyed the challenge of the final section to confirm the final podium place in the FIA T4 section, despite also incurring a 45-minute time penalty after SS2.
Fournier came into the weekend’s action trying to defend a 19.5-point advantage in the FIA T4 standings. He again teamed up with Polish co-driver Szymon Gospodarczyk and was fourth quickest in the Wadi Rum opener and retained a similar position through stage two, despite incurring a similar 45-minute time penalty. The veteran managed to maintain a reduced championship lead after reaching the finish in fourth overall.
Al-Attiyah teamed up with the experienced French navigator Xavier Panseri for the first time. The Qatari was the pace-setter through the opening splits on the first 210.72km Wadi Rum stage but fuel pump issues thwarted his progress through the later kilometres and the Qatari was handed massive time penalties for going over his time limit.
He failed to start the second of leg one’s timed tests and restarted on Saturday with 30hr 15min of time penalties, his event finishing on a high note with the fastest stage time in SS3.
“The rally was good in general,” said Al-Attiyah. “Yesterday we withdrew with a mechanical problem, fuel pump, but we decided to go to today’s stage to gain more experience, where we want to learn more and collect more mileage under our belts.”
South Racing Can-Am Team’s Scott Abraham said: “Another good event in the Middle East for the South Racing Can-Am Team, scoring vital points towards the 2021 FIA World Cup. Meshari and Nasser have shown that they are growing race-to-race and are getting even more experience in a cross-country environment. They are looking forward to getting back to more rally-style stages in Europe, starting with Baja Spain in July.
“Tom Bell and Armand Monleón put in a solid race, they got it to the finish and continue to learn together. The new crew is learning English to Spanish translations and it was a good event for them and good kilometres for Tom in the Can-Am. Claude and Szymon brought the car to the finish and continue to pick up vital championship points.
“It was disappointing for Khalifa and Xavier. They had a fuel problem on Friday and that put them out of yesterday’s stage. Before they stopped, they were leading the stage by more than seven minutes. On the final stage today, they were much faster than their rivals and only a few minutes slower than the third-placed T1. It’s just a pity about the fuel issues.”
Source: automobilsport.com (Story Neil Perkins, images: Jordan Motorsport)