After an injury took him out of the 2023 FIM Baja World Cup, Albury based rider Andrew Houlihan is ready to race again and will compete in the opening round of the 2024 championship.
Houlihan had a strong grip on the 2023 Veterans class title until a low speed incident during training in Australia resulted in a tear to the quadricep tendon in his left leg. The injury forced him out of the final 2 rounds of the World Cup and into the operating theatre last October.
At that time he held a commanding lead in the Veterans class. He was still in the lead going into the final round and could only watch from the sidelines as his title slipped away, eventually finishing second in the series to Pedro Bianchi Prata and still 40 points clear of third paced Esther Merino Garcia.
And despite the disappointment of missing the final two rounds Houlihan also finished 6th overall in the 450cc World Championship class.
Recovery from an injury of this nature can take almost a year, but Houlihan has spent the past 12 weeks doing intense rehabilitation to be ready for a gruelling year of competition ahead.
He is one of the most tenacious competitors in the game and now plans to compete in all eight rounds of the 2024 FIM Baja World Cup, and then back up for the 2025 Dakar Rally.
Round 1 of the 2024 FIM Baja World Cup is in Hail, Saudi Arabia from February 8-10 and it came down to an almost last minute decision for Andrew to make the trip to Saudi Arabia.
“After talking with my Physio and my surgeon, my wife Katie and I made the decision late last week that I will be able to race at the first round’, he said. “It’s been one of the busiest weeks I’ve ever had and somehow it’s all fallen into place!”
Houlihan will be competing on a KTM 450 RFR Rally bike with the support of the Saudi Dirt Bike Center.
The event runs over 3 days with a prologue on Thursday 8th and two competitive stages on Friday and Saturday of approximately 1,000km in total.
Competitors will travel through the same terrain – predominantly rocks and sand dunes – as the recent Dakar Rally. The route crosses the Great Nafud desert, an area characterised by the height and difficulty of its sand dunes and rocky terrain.
A total of 31 riders have entered the event including last year’s winner Mohammed Al Balooshi, Veterans class winner Pedro Bianchi Prata and Andrew’s good friend Barry Howe from England who is also returning to competition after breaking his leg early last year.
Thursday’s Prologue will be Andrew’s first competitive run on a bike since his injury.
“It’s important to get a good result in the Prologue stage as it will be multiplied by a factor of 8, and this time will be added to the final classification”, he explained.
“I’m very thankful to get support this early in the year with Channings Bottle Yard, Squire Ag Services and Shaun Walsh Earthmoving who have committed early to provide support for the FIM Baja World Cup Championships and the Dakar Rally 2025.”
“I am facing my biggest challenge ever, with this year’s eight round World Baja series finishing on November 30 and then the Dakar Rally starting only 4 weeks after, so every bit of support and assistance is crucial this year more than ever.”
2024-2025 Rally Schedule
2024 FIM Bajas World Cup
- 8-10 Feb 2024 – Saudi Baja, Saudi Arabia
- 2-4 May – Baja TT Dehesa Extremadura, Spain
- 26-28 Jul – Baja España Aragón, Spain
- 8-11 Aug – Hungarian Baja, Hungary
- 31 Oct–2 Nov – Qatar International Baja, Qatar
- 8–10 Nov – Baja TT do Oeste, Portugal
- 15–17 Nov – Dubai International Baja, United Arab Emirates
- 28–30 Nov – Jordan Baja, Jordan
2025 Dakar Rally
5-19 Jan 2025 – Saudi Arabia