16/03/2023 8:25pm, Qatar
SPEEDCAFE.com sponsored rider Andrew Houlihan is in Qatar to compete in the 2023 Qatar International Baja, the second round of the 2023 FIM Bajas World Cup.
The Qatar International Baja is the largest event ever hosted by the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation, with 51 motorcycles and four quads participating.
Fourteen riders are eligible to score points in the FIM Veterans category for over 45s, with Andrew leading the class after his ninth-place finish in Saudi Arabia. However, competition will be intense in the Qatar deserts.
Andrew is facing a six-strong Italian challenge from Cesare Zacchetti, Francesco Catanese, Fabrizio Macchitella, Alberto Bertoldi, Elio Aglioni, and Enrico Tanganelli, as well as from Britain’s Barry Howe and Norway’s Ola Floene.
Andrew and Barry have a growing friendship and rivalry, which will undoubtedly add to the excitement of this competition.
Howe came third in the Vets class last year and is wanting to step it up and claim the title, while Houlihan made his intentions – and capabilities – very clear with his strong result in round 1.
Andrew will be riding the Husqvarna he raced in the first round last month, but plans to debut his newly built KTM Baja bike at round 3 in Spain next month.
The KTM450 Baja bike has been prepared by Aurora Rally Equipment in Athens and will be freighted directly to Spain later this month. And new will not see or ride the new bike until the third round starting on April 14.
With the short Prologue completed Andrew said he was happy with the bike and his performance, despite making a couple of minor errors on some of the tight corners.
“The track was very rocky and mostly marked so there was almost zero navigation for the prologue.”
His time in the Prologue earned him 3rd place in the vets class and 21st overall, and he will now start Stage 1 from 21st position.
“Tomorrow’s stage will be a very hot one, and I’m very happy with my starting position as the calibre of riders at this round is extremely high.”