Being the very first Emirati in history to ride in the toughest motorsport event on the planet, Mohammed Balooshi has made history. Despite an unfortunate turn of events which cut his rally short on day 10, Mohammed still feels like the luckiest man in the UAE. His experiences during his time at the 2012 Dakar Rally were plentiful and he has a lot of stories to share.
A HERO ARRIVES
Balooshi– “My favorite memory of all was when I arrived back in Dubai. I was met at the airport by lots of people, friends, fellow riders and others that I don’t know but were following my progress at the rally. I did not expect this type of reception, especially since I didn’t finish. I would have expected this if I had finished well, but this was a total surprise!”
Indeed, Balooshi returned to a hero’s welcome. The riding community in general, had been following Mohammed’s progress in the rally and they were very proud of how well he did. Even street riders and cruisers were present to greet him when he landed in Dubai.
Mohammed’s riding skill set has greatly improved, too. Having exprienced all kinds of terrain in the 10 days of riding, he has gained plenty of new skills.
Balooshi– “I rode though rocks, grass, hard pack sand, mountains, valleys, water crossings and of course, sand dunes. It took awhile, but i began to get used these conditions and gained more confidence each day. But I always made up a lot of time in sand dunes. In one stage with a total of over 400 kms. I passed 18 riders in 20+ kms. of sand dunes! Before that, I only passed 3 riders,”
Having the KTM Factory Team behind Mohammed, taking care of the bike and all the logistics, really made a big difference in his Dakar experience. Very few people can ever get this opportunity and it’s like racing in Formula 1 as a privateer but having the Red Bull Racing F1 team take care of your needs! As such, Mohammed never had to worry about his bike and he always got a bike that was to his liking. Then for strategy and mental preparation, he had access to the team manager who has led the team to numerous championship wins for KTM. Mohammed was essentially treated like a factory rider!
Balooshi– “Yes, it definitely made a BIG difference! Imagine, I had a world-class team behind me, the very same team that led Marc Coma and Cyril Despres! To have been at the Dakar Rally is a dream already. But to be at the Dakar Rally with the best team in motorcycle rallying– the KTM Factory Racing Team– that was the ultimate dream,”
Mohammed was truly doing very well at the Dakar Rally. His pace was improving each and everyday. Starting from 130th, he had moved as high as 43rd overall. But, on day 10, lady luck had decided to take a break and Mohammed’s journey ended prematurely. After a forced detour imposed by local police, Balooshi and a group of riders were directed off the rally route. Then things made a turn for the worse.
Balooshi– “We were told to continue going further down the road, some 30 kms. past where we were supposed to go offroad, according to our road book. The police, who didn’t speak English, insisted we stay on the road. He even blocked me and signaled not to turn off where we should. So, lost and unable to find my way, I was about to turn back when a pack of riders arrived. We then decided to ride as instructed and see if we can somehow find others who would have been ahead of us and then follow them. I was upset because these riders were the same ones I had passed. All that work was gone all because we were directed away from the route.”
“So, as we continued on, the path started to go slightly uphill. As I reached the top, I saw this HUGE hole a few meters in front of me! It was about 5 meters long and just about as deep! With no time to stop I decided to give it gas and jump it. My front wheel had cleared it but not the back. The bike then threw me off and that was it. Looking back, I realized that it could have been worse. Had I tried to stop, I would have been in bigger trouble. Sadly, I was unable to continue. My rally was done.”
“What upset me more was that I could not get an explanation on why we were diverted from the route. I did not need or wanted an apology– just an explanation. The KTM Factory Racing Team manager also tried but didn’t get anywhere with the organizer. He then told me that these things do happen. I just had to take it and look forward to next year.”
ONWARD TO 2013
It was really heartbreaking for all of us when we found out Mohammed was officially out. He had impressed us all with his progress and it looked like he was going to make it to the finish.
Despite the abrupt end to his Dakar experience, Mohammed is still in high spirits and is already planning for 2013.
Balooshi– “This was just the beginning. Next year, I hope to do better and I want to make it all the way to the finish. I’ve learned a lot during my ride in the Dakar and I have a whole year to work hard and prepare for 2013. Right now, I am looking forward to the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge and Qatar Rally. These events will be great practice for me and will give me more rally experience which will be essential for the Dakar.”
Mohammed Balooshi has made history and he will continue to do so. He is a role model to all riders and an excellent ambassador for his country, sponsors and of course KTM. He is on the Road to Dakar.
The KTM-UAE Racing Team and Mohammed Balooshi are sponsored by Red Bull, Geodis Wilson, Volkswagen, Al Shafar Group and Fibra Foil.