Qatar Baja 2023: Stage 2

Andrew Houlihan has won the Vets class and finished 4th outright in the Qatar International Baja.

The final stage of the event, which is the second round of the FIM Bajas World Cup 2023, covered a total of 224.96km split into four sections of 33.73km, 28.51km, 43.23km and 113.20km and separated by three non-competitive transfer zones.

Andrew went into the final day with a 6 minute lead in the Vets class and 7th overall.

His closest competition in this round, Cesare Zacchetti, won today’s stage by a margin of 3 minutes 30 seconds but that simply wasn’t enough to claw back the deficit.

Zacchetti has a long list of successes and several Dakar Rallies to his name, and was recognised as one of the strongest competitors in this round.

Britain’s Barry Howe, who was also expected to do well and challenge Andrew Houlihan for the class win, failed to finish today’s stage.

With today’s class win, Andrew has consolidated his championship lead in the Vets class but his outstanding result almost landed him an overall podium finish as well.

Dutch female racer Mirjam Pol took 3rd place overall behind Konrad Dabrowski and Robert Wallace, edging Houlihan out by a margin of just 66.4 seconds!

But the 4th place overall is Andrew’s best ever finish since his debut on the international rally scene in 2018.

“What an unbelievable race with everything – sand, rocks, dunes and some very tough competition”, he said after today’s stage.

“I’m very happy to come away with another win in the Veterans World Cup and 4th place overall.”

The tough navigation and demanding terrain took its toll on many riders, but Andrew says his success in this event, especially with the depth of talent that was present, has given him confidence heading into the remaining events of the year.

The next round is in Spain from the 14th to 16th April where Andrew is expected to debut the new KTM Baja bike being prepared by Aurora Rally Equipment in Athens.