Saturday, July 20, 2024

Despite “near unbearable” ending, Andrew Houlihan savours Hungarian Baja performance in conditions

Back in Europe from Australia nearly sixteen thousand kilometres and thirty-three hours on a plane away, Andrew Houlihan continued his quest for an FIM Bajas World Cup Veterans Trophy over the weekend at the Hungarian Baja.

Track conditions played a major factor in Houlihan’s strategy. Held on a military shooting range, its use by both military vehicles and cars taking part in the race made the already rocky terrain even rougher for riders. This compounded with dusty conditions and the summer weather prompted him to ride more conservatively throughout the Baja.

His bike’s navigation tower broke shortly before the neutralisation zone in the second stage, leaving him at a “walking pace” as he had to keep the tower steady with one hand while riding with the other. Although “suffering a little bit” from the heat, he managed to reach the end in ninth overall of sixteen FIM finishers with a total time of 6:41:40, the last with a sub-seven-hour time. His best stage outing was a seventh in Stage #2.

“Started off quite good, but the last thirty kilometres were near unbearable for me,” Houlihan commented. “The track was that cut up and rocky. Totally exhausted. Fortunately didn’t have any accidents. Got a fairly good position in the finish. Overall, it’s been a great race. I really enjoyed the conditions here. Very demanding. It was really good.”

Race winner Stefan Svitko was ahead of Houlihan by 52:20.

Houlihan remains third in the overall 450cc World Cup, trailing leader Mohammed Al-Balooshi by eighteen points. He also still leads the Veterans Trophy with 101 points, thirty-one ahead of Pedro Bianchi Prata despite the latter beating him in the results in the last three races; Bianchi finished fourth in Hungary.

The next World Cup round, the Baja do Ooeste in Portugal, is on 6–8 October. It is the final European race before the season ends with two events in the Middle East, which gives Houlihan a less gruelling plane flight from his home country.