South Racing Can-Am Team’s Pavel Lebedev won the opening stage and held on through a second demanding desert section to seal victory in the FIA T4 category at the Dubai International Baja, round two of the 2021 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas.
South Racing entered three Can-Am Maverick X3s in the two-stage event through the UAE’s Al Qudra desert. Kuwait’s Meshari Al-Thefiri overhauled Frenchman Claude Fournier on the second day to come home in the runner-up spot and Spaniard Laia Sanz survived a first day roll in the dunes to finish fourth.
Lebedev and Kirill Shubin teamed up in their South Racing Can-Am for the first time and began their challenge for honours in superb fashion with the fastest time through the opening selective section of 192.23 kilometres. Lebedev carded a time of 3hr 22min 51sec to storm into an overnight advantage of 5min 06sec over experienced French rival Fournier.
To conserve his lead, Lebedev erred on the side of caution through the second selective section of 194.75km and the third quickest time behind Saudi Arabia’s Saleh Al-Saif and team-mate Sanz enabled the Russian to reach the finish with a winning margin of 29min 30sec.
Multiple FIA MERC 2 and Group N champion Meshari Al-Thefiri joined forces with South Racing for the first time to drive a Can-Am after beginning the defence of his MERC 2 title in winning style in Qatar two weeks ago. The Kuwaiti teamed up with Emirati navigator Ali Hassan Obaid and was third quickest through the first timed section. He safely negotiated leg two to reach the finish in second overall with the fourth quickest time.
Sanz is one of the most famous motorcycle riders on the Dakar Rally and has been the top female on 11 occasions during her career as a factory-backed biker with KTM and the Gas-Gas Team. The Spaniard has wanted to try her hand in the four-wheel discipline for some time and teamed up with South Racing for the Dubai International Baja, recruiting none other than Carlos Sainz’s regular Spanish navigator Lucas Cruz as her co-driver.
Sanz began with the fifth quickest time through the opening stage but moved up to fourth at the night halt after technical issues affected Saudi rival Al-Saif. A roll over a sand dune was her baptism of fire, but the Spanish crew managed to repair the Can-Am and finished the stage with time penalties. A second quickest time on the second section enabled the Spaniard to reach the finish in fourth place.
South Racing Can-Am Team’s Scott Abraham said:“This was a great way for South Racing to start the 2021 Baja campaign. We had a very mixed team in this race, which is always interesting and full of surprises. It was a great result for Pavel and Kirill on their debut race and their first ever race together in the dunes in cross-country to take the T4 win.
“This was a very good debut for Meshari and Laia as well. She showed good pace on all the stages and finished second on the stage today, even with a small delay. She gained valuable kilometres on her first event in four-wheel drive in cross-country competition. Yesterday, a small rollover in the dunes cost her some time, but she and Lucas repaired the Can-Am and brought it home. This showed that she has what it takes to make it well in the future.
“A big thanks to all the team and the sponsors for their support, as well as our Middle East partners, Sabertooth (Sabertooth Motoring Adventure), for their hospitality.”
2021 Dubai International Baja – final positions (FIA T4 category - unofficial):
1. Pavel Lebedev (RAF)/Kirill Shubin (RAF) South Racing Can-Am Maverick X3 6hr 48min 46sec
2. Meshari Al-Thefiri (KWT)/Ali Hassan Obaid (ARE) South Racing Can-Am Maverick X3 7hr 18min 16sec
3. Claude Fournier (FRA)/Szymon Gospodarczyk (POL) Can-Am Maverick X3 7hr 32min 51sec
4. Laia Sanz (ESP)/Lucas Cruz (ESP) South Racing Can-Am Maverick X3 9hr 12min 34sec
5. Saleh Al-Saif (SAU)/Oriol Vidal (ESP) Can-Am Maverick X3 39hr 59min 11sec
Source: South Racing Can-Am press release