Houlihan posts career-best finish, wins class in Qatar

Andrew Houlihan

Australian rider Andrew Houlihan has finished a career-best fourth outright and first in the Veterans class in the second round of the FIM Bajas World Cup in Qatar.

Houlihan started the final day with a six-minute lead in Veterans and seventh overall of the 54 bikes entered in the event.

The final stage overnight involved 224.96km of competitive riding split into four sections of 33.73km, 28.51km, 43.23km and 113.20km divided by three non-competitive transfer zones.

The Albury-based rider managed to extend his margin in the Veterans (45 years+) and narrowly missed a spot on the outright podium.

“It was a tough event and it was great to come away with the result we did,” said Houlihan.

“It was a big field and the depth of talent was impressive, so that gives me confidence heading into the remaining events of the year.

“I feel more and more comfortable each time I am on the bike and having regular events to look forward to and train for is certainly helping me as an overall rider.

“I think I am also becoming more patient and a smarter rider and that is also showing in my results.”

Houlihan was 21st outright and second in the veterans class after making a couple of small mistakes in the opening stage one prologue.

Terrain for stage two was extremely sandy, but underneath the surface there were large rocks and the combination of the two brought several competitors undone.

Houlihan played it conservative in the challenging terrain and concentrated on his navigation because picking a track from the riders in front of him was virtually impossible.

“I don’t think I have ever seen as many rocks,” said Houlihan of stage two.

“The navigation was the toughest I have done in five years of rallying.

“To make matters worse, just after leaving the fuel stop I had a cable on my trip meter come loose and lost my ability to adjust my distances.

“This becomes a big problem because if you miss a corner or turn by only a few meters it keeps accumulating.

“I managed to catch a small group of riders and we all rode together to the end of the stage. The only problem here was with my trip meter issues we missed a turn and l lost 20 minutes finding the correct track.”

Despite his issues, Houilhan managed to catch Italian Cesare Zacchetti and put a five-minute gap on him in the veterans class while he finished fifth outright setting up a solid foundation for the third and final stage.

Polish rider Konrad Dabrowski retained his motorcycle title in Qatar with a polished performance that saw him win every stage on his KTM.

He won the last stage by almost seven minutes to beat home Great Britain’s Robert Wallace by more than half an hour.

With Australian Martin Chalmers dropping out of contention on the final morning, the battle for the final place on the podium swung in favour of Dutch female racer Mirjam Pol.

The KTM rider climbed from eighth to third overall and finished as the top Womens class rider.

She edged out Houlihan for the last podium place by a mere 66.4s, although the Australian had the consolation of winning the Veterans’ class and finishing a career-best  fourth.

The next round of the championship will be in Spain from April 14-16.

2023 Qatar International Baja
FIM Bajas World Cup, Round 2 – Bikes (Top 16 only)
March 16th-18th, 2023

  1. Konrad Dabrowski (POL) KTM 450 Rally 7hr 22min 09.3sec
  2. Robert Wallace (GBR) KTM 450 RFR 7hr 53min 14.1sec
  3. Mirjam Pol (NLD) KTM 8hr 43min 18.1sec
  4. Andrew Houlihan (AUS) Husqvarna FR 8hr 44min 24.5sec
  5. Marwan Al-Rahmani (ARE) KTM 450 Rally 8hr 46min 07.6sec
  6. Jonathan Finn (CAN) Honda CRF 450 RL 8hr 47min 47.5sec
  7. Cesare Zacchetti (ITA) KTM EXC 350F 8hr 49min 09.5sec
  8. Mohammed Al-Balooshi (ARE) KTM 450 Rally Replica 9hr 04min 24.8sec
  9. Abdullah Al-Shatti (KWT) Husqvarna 450 Rally 9hr 10min 08.2sec
  10. Alex McInnes (GBR) Husqvarna FE450 9hr 10min 56.0sec
  11. Ola Floene (NOR) KTM 450 Rally 9hr 12min 54.5sec
  12. Abdullah Lanjawi (ARE) Husqvarna FE450 9hr 13min 09.9sec
  13. Mishal Al-Ghuneim (SAU) KTM 450 Rally 9hr 15min 00.1sec
  14. Simon Marcic (SVN) Husqvarna 450 Rally Replica 9hr 15min 42.8sec
  15. Oran O’Kelly (IRL) KTM 450 Rally 9hr 30min 09.2sec
  16. Ehab Al-Hakeem (LBN) Yamaha WR 450F 10hr 12min

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