– Marek Dabrowski and Khalifa Al-Attiyah finish fourth and 17th in Italy
Overdrive Racing brought three of its four Toyota Hiluxes to the finish of the punishing Italian Baja in Pordenone on Sunday afternoon and Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah led the way for the Belgian team with a superb last stage victory that extends the Qatar’s commanding lead in the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies.
He and French navigator Matthieu Baumel were dicing for the outright lead throughout the three-day event in northern Italy and overturned a 53-second deficit on the last special stage to record a winning margin of 2min 09sec over runner-up Vladimir Vasilyev.
Poland’s Marek Dabrowski and Jacek Czachor brought their Team Orlen-backed Toyota to the finish in a fourth place, although there was a chance that a time penalty for a rival may push them into third place in the final results.
Al-Attiyah’s brother Khalifa and his French navigator Xavier Panseri finished 17th, but the French duo of Ronan Chabot and Gilles Pillot retired on the second of the stages on Saturday afternoon with an engine failure.
This was another fantastic weekend for Overdrive Racing and a memorable win for Nasser on the final stage, said Overdrive Racing’s CEO Jean-Marc Fortin. It was not easy at all. He had a puncture in the middle of the last stage and was able to change it very quickly. Then Bryce Menzies had a small crash and Yazeed (Al-Rajhi) was delayed and it fell into place for Nasser to take the win.
It was a very demanding race on the cars. There was a lot of standing water in many places and over 20km in the stage was one large water splash. It is not easy to brake the car in these conditions. We lost Ronan Chabot with an engine failure after a water splash, but Marek did a superb job to finish in the top four and Khalifa achieved an impressive finish on his first time here.
Al-Attiyah opened his account perfectly with the fastest time on Friday afternoon’s 10.27km super special stage. The Qatari recorded a time of 7min 56.3sec in his Overdrive Toyota Hilux and that was 21.3 seconds quicker than the time set by Saudi rival Yazeed Al-Rajhi.
Dabrowski settled into third position with a time of 8min 25.6sec and Chabot was 15th. Khalifa Al-Attiyah drove in a restrained manner on his Italian debut to hold 20th place in a time of 9min 35.4sec.
Teams tackled two runs through the 74.40km of the Arzena stage on Saturday and Al-Attiyah recorded the fastest time of 51min 50sec to extend his outright lead over Al-Rajhi to 29 seconds. Dabrowski was sixth and held fifth overall, while the 13th quickest time ensured that Chabot started the third stage in 14th position. Al-Attiyah’s brother Khalifa was 20th.
Al-Rajhi hit back on the second run through Arzena and the Saudi clocked the fastest time of 50min 40sec to snatch the outright lead away from Al-Attiyah by the margin of 26 seconds. The sixth quickest time for Dabrowski ensured that the Pole reached the overnight halt in a similar position. Al-Attiyah climbed to 18th overall, but Chabot suffered engine issues and lost his place inside the top 20.
Bryce Menzies won the first of the two runs through the 74.50km of the Rauscedo stage on Sunday morning a repeat of the Saturday special run in reverse – and snatched the outright lead from Al-Attiyah by 53 seconds heading into the repeat run in the afternoon. Dabrowski was fifth and held a similar position in the overall standings and Khalifa Al-Attiyah recorded the 20th fastest time to hold 15th overall. Chabot had retired following his troubles on Saturday evening.
Al-Attiyah recorded a time of 50min 44sec on his final dash through the stage in an attempt to overturn the 53 seconds by which he trailed Menzies and it worked superbly. Despite a puncture, it not only gave the Qatari the quickest time, but his rival dropped nearly eight minutes and slipped behind Dabrowski in the overall classification.
Overdrive Racing’s attention now switches to the Silk Way Rally and the Baja Spain in July.
2016 Italian Baja positions after SS5 (unofficial @ 14.50hrs):
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive, 3hr 37min 13sec
2. Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS) BMW X3, 3hr 39min 22sec
3. Boris Gadasin (RUS)/Alexei Kuzmich (RUS) G-Force Proto NL, 3hr 42min 55sec
4. Marek Dabrowski (POL)/Jacek Czachor (POL) Toyota Hilux Overdrive, 3hr 43min 08sec
5. Bryce Menzies (USA)/Tom Colsoul (BEL) Mini All4 Racing, 3hr 43min 55sec
6. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Timo Gottschalk (DEU) Mini All4 Racing, 3hr 49min 15sec
7. Yuriy Sazonov (KAZ)/Dmytri Tsyro (UKR) Ford Ranger, 3hr 55min 11sec
8. Jordi Gaig (ESP)/Alex Astudillo (ESP) Mini One, 3hr 55min 19sec
17. Khalifa Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Xavier Panseri (FRA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive, 4hr 15min 25sec