As a consequence of the rapid development of infrastructure in the UAE, the area available for traditional special stage rallying in Dubai has been greatly reduced since the 1980’s and 1990’s. For this reason, as well as to capitalize on the growing preference and demand for cross country rallying in the region, in early 2016, the ATCUAE and Dubai Government took the decision to reformat what was previously known as the Dubai International Rally, into an event that caters for cross country cars and motorcycles, and elevate it from a regional to a world level status.
In its former guise, the Dubai International Rally was the oldest motorsport event in the UAE, being staged annually since the late 1970s and organized by the ATCUAE since 1997. Until 2015, the event was staged as a round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship, being won by such drivers as Nasser Al Attiyah, Saeed Al Hajri, Khalid Al Qassimi and Bjorn Waldegård. Current ATCUAE President Mohammed Ben Sulayem holds the record for most wins, taking 15 victories between 1985 and 2002.
Following the successful hosting of the candidate event in December 2016, the Dubai International Baja took place as a round of both the 2017 FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies (alongside the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge) and the FIM Baja World Cup. The 2017 event was well received and proved to be a huge success, not least because of its close proximity to Dubai.
The Dubai International Baja is held under the patronage of H.H Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, and organised by the ATCUAE with the backing of a number of major sponsors.