The 37-year-old will be on his KTM 450 Rally Replica for Ride to Abu Dhabi Team for the first round of the FIA Cross Country Rallies World Championship when the Desert Challenge gets underway at Al Forsan International Resort on Saturday.
With the entry list consisting of 27 other motorcyclists including Dakar Rally champion Sam Sunderland and Honda’s Paulo Goncalves, Al Balooshi has his work cut out for him but remains optimistic he’ll impress if he gives his very best.
“Physically I’m ready and I’m in a good place,” said Al Balooshi, who failed to finish last year’s event due to technical issues. “For me, I know whatever situation that is given to me, the one thing I can do is give 100 per cent. I won’t be shy of that and I can deal with the situation and give my best.
“As a competitor, I want to do really well. I don’t want to feel that at the end of the day, that I could have done better,” added Al Balooshi, who finished sixth in the overall championship standings in 2015.
“Every year this event is always very challenging. This competition is not shy of having big names and it always has been.
“For me, I have to take care of myself and do what is right for me. I won’t focus on the other athletes because if you do, you’re wasting energy. I have all the respect for all the riders and that doesn’t change my performance.”
This week he has been getting to grips with his KTM 450 Rally Replica for the first time since last season’s Sea Cross Country Rally in Qatar.
Technical issues prevented him from having it much earlier and although he’s happy with his bike, he admits he would’ve liked to have more time with his KTM.
“The ideal situation would be to have the bike for longer but I’ll do with what I’m given,” he said. “I’m just trying to make the best out of it and it’s very positive and the bike shows that we are going in the right direction. In the ideal world, you would like to to have the bike early, but that’s fine for me.”
Constant showers that hit the UAE last week have made the conditions even tougher than they alr-eady are, with the rivals rethinking their strategies in tackling the sand which is yet to dry.
“It’s quite tricky with the rain that we’ve had, that makes it more difficult,” said Al Balooshi.
“We are used to the sand being soft and now it’s harder and that would mean braking more effectively. It’s a different way to approach the race and if you’re starting behind, it will be easier to navigate on the track.
“If you’re at the front, it’s quite a tricky one because people will be behind you.
“It means that can have an adv-antage or disadvantage – it just dep-ends on where you start.”
The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge presents another chance for Al Bal-ooshi to compete on home turf and it’s a competition he’s very much looking forward to.
“For me, I’ve grown up riding in the desert and love challenging on the dunes,” he said. “It’s quite a nice race to be part of as we do it once a year. It’s an amazing race to spend time on your bike.”
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