Nasser Al-Attiyah and co-driver Mathieu Baumel set a blistering pace at this weekend’s Italian Baja to win the race and increase their FIA Cross-Country Rally World Cup lead. The Qatari driver and his French navigator secured their third win of the season in trademark style as they attacked from the front during the 400km race in northern Italy.
There were also impressive performances from fellow Red Bull Desert Wings Marek Dabrowski and Bryce Menzies who finished up in fourth and fifth place respectively within a world class field of opponents.
Nasser and Mathieu are at the controls of a different vehicle to when they won the Italian Baja and also the Cross-Country Rally World Cup last year, but the switch in machinery has not cost them a second of speed. The 2015 Dakar Rally winners now compete in a Toyota Hilux and they have been consistently delivering winning results for their new team throughout the year. This latest dominant performance follows on from victories in the UAE and Qatar this season.
The notoriously unpredictable and technically challenging Italian Baja certainly lived up to its fearsome reputation this weekend. Nasser’s skills behind the wheel were tested to the limit as he weaved his Toyota through the narrow, dusty tracks in the Pordenone region of Italy. The pressure was also on co-driver Mathieu during the contest with pinpoint navigation required to maintain the stunning pace that was required to win the event.
There was also plenty to celebrate for Polish pair Marek Dabrowski and Jacek Czachor as they brought home their own Hilux in fourth place overall. Marek and co-driver Jacek finished their first Dakar together on four wheels inside the top 10. Now this result in Italy will have confidence growing inside the Orlen Team that the duo can surpass even that impressive achievement in the near future.
American offroad superstar Bryce Menzies is still in the early stages of his cross-country education, but that didn’t stop him showing the kind of speed that has seen him become a three-time SCORE Baja 500 champion in his homeland. Bryce was paired up with Belgian co-driver Tom Colsoul and they tore into the course to take their MINI to a stage win and the outright lead on Sunday morning. Despite losing time when forced to change a wheel, a final Top 5 result sees Bryce take a massive step forward in his development within this discipline.
Also enjoying himself at the race this weekend was 12-time Dakar winner Stéphane Peterhansel. The Frenchman competed alongside his wife, Andrea Mayer, in a Yamaha YXZ 1000 buggy as part of a honeymoon holiday in Italy.
Nasser Al-Attiyah: “I’m very happy to have won the Italian Baja once again. We had a small problem on Saturday with the water crossings and on Sunday we lost a little time as well. Despite these setbacks we never stopped pushing. It’s very satisfying to have overcome everything we had to deal with and come away with the win.
« The format is little different in Italy to what we are accustom to at other races on the calendar. Here we race two stages on each day instead of one. Some drivers will be cautious on the first stage of the day but what works better for us is maintain a good rhythm throughout both stages because you always need to take advantage when the chances come along.
“This year we have had to adapt very quickly to our new car and it’s great that we have been able to do this and continue to win races. The whole team is working so hard to ensure our Toyota Hilux can challenge for top results wherever we go in the world. We have very open communication in the team so everyone can get their point of view across as we look to make constant improvements.