posted on 23/08/2012: 591 views
Dubai's Fazza Rally Team driver Khalifa Al Mutaiwei is looking to take an outright lead in the 2012 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies Championship when he tackles this weekend's Baja Hungary.
Al Mutaiwei, who drives a Mini All4 Racing, trails twice Dakar Rally winner Jean-Louis Schlesser by a single point in the fight for the title but is confident he can overtake his French rival in the fifth round in Hungary.
World champion in 2004, Al Mutaiwei has made a superb return to the sport this season after a near eight-year absence.
"We are in the second part of the season and now I am in a far better condition than at the start of the year,” said Al Mutaiwei, who will be bidding to become the third X-raid team driver to win the event in five years.
"I have gained in confidence and more experience as the season has progressed. I know much more about my car and am more in harmony with the team.
"I am only one point behind Jean-Louis Schlesser in the championship and well clear in second place. My goal is to finish on the podium for the fourth time this season.
"This is my first time in Hungary. It is a Baja and not a traditional cross-country rally, so there is a different approach. There is no chance to make a mistake. I will try and find the balance between pushing, attacking and being cautious at the same time.”
In addition to facing Schlesser, Al Mutaiwei will have to contend with the Russian duo of former winner Boris Gadasin and Vladimir Vasilyev, who currently holds fifth in the overall standings.
The fifth round is further boosted by the presence of 2007 Baja Hungary winner Miroslav Zapletal and Ukraine's Vadym Nesterchuk who are among the 30 starters.
With three more rounds left after Hungary, Al Mutaiwei is in with a very realistic chance of repeating his 2004 feat. But for that to happen he must take a full 30 points over the weekend, which will give him a sizeable lead over Schlesser.
The official start is in the town of Gyor on Friday evening at 8pm UAE time, with a 4.89km super special stage in Ifari Park. Crews will tackle a pair of special stages twice on Saturday, with the first 51.80km selective getting under way at 10:45 and the second, longer 71.67km starting at 12:14.
These two-timed tests will be repeated on Saturday afternoon. Action draws to a close on Sunday with a run through a 52.32km stage and a third pass through the 71.67km stage between Mihalyi and Vitnyed. The podium finish will take place in Gyor later the same afternoon. – Sport 360°
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