– Former Dakar champions Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Joan Roma head team
– Dutchman Erik van Loon joins Overdrive to drive a Toyota for the first time
– Qatar’s Khalifa Al-Attiyah and Frenchman Ronan Chabot complete line-up
Overdrive Racing begins the countdown to its preparations for the 2017 Dakar Rally by entering five Toyota Hiluxes and a powerful driver line-up in next week’s OiLibya Rally of Morocco, the eighth and penultimate round of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies. The event starts in Agadir on Sunday, October 2 and finishes at Erfoud on Friday, October 7.
Heading the impressive team line-up on one of the most demanding rounds of the cross-country calendar are three-time FIA World Cup champion and two-time Dakar winner Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and the two-time Dakar-winning Spaniard Joan Roma.
Dutchman Erik van Loon joins Overdrive Racing for the first time to make his debut in a Toyota Hilux and Frenchman Ronan Chabot and Al-Attiyah’s brother Khalifa complete the five-car challenge.
Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and his French navigator Matthieu Baumel clinched a third FIA World Cup title and a first for Toyota and Overdrive Racing in Poland last month. While the pressure is off the Qatari to push for championship points on the demanding Moroccan desert stages, the Doha driver is keen to round off his FIA World Cup season in winning style and further develop the Toyota Hilux in readiness for the Dakar in January. He is also chasing a Moroccan hat-trick, having won the event with Baumel in 2014 and 2015.
Roma will be competing with the team for the second time, having teamed up with navigator Alex Haro on his home Baja Spain Aragón in July. A winner of the Dakar on a motorcycle in 2004 and in a car in 2014, Roma is looking forward to the challenge of competing at the Dakar with his new team and senses the importance of tackling as many kilometres as possible in Morocco and further acclimatising to the traits of the powerful V8-engined South African-built Toyota.
Van Loon joins to drive the third Toyota in Morocco alongside navigator Wouter Rosegaar. Van Loon burst on to the rallying scene in saloon-type events in 2008 and then tackled the Dakar for the first time the following year. He continued to combine special stage rallying with cross-country events for the next couple of seasons and went on to finish fourth overall in the 2013 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.
The following year he finished third overall in Morocco and Egypt, sixth in Abu Dhabi and 27th on the Dakar, before tackling a full campaign of cross-country rallies in 2015 that netted a fine fourth on the Dakar, third in Abu Dhabi, fifth in Baja Russia, sixth in Spain, seventh in Egypt and 17th in Morocco. This season he finished 13th at the Dakar and fifth in Baja Poland before joining Overdrive Racing in September.
Frenchman Ronan Chabot and his navigator Gilles Pillot retired from the recent Baja Poland after an accident and crew the fourth Toyota in North Africa. Khalifa Al-Attiyah and Belgian co-driver Stéphane Prevot occupy the fifth car with support from the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF).
Obviously the regulations for the Dakar and the FIA World Cup events are different, but the Rally of Morocco is a very useful exercise nonetheless and a great opportunity for the drivers to get more competitive kilometres under their belts and spend more time in the Toyota Hilux, said Overdrive Racing’s CEO Jean-Marc Fortin.
We have just finished four days of testing in Morocco with Nani and Nasser and that has put us in good stead for the challenges that lie ahead. Morocco is always a demanding rally. Last year, we had a few cars in the top 10 and we were competitive. This year, we have a Marathon day and that will not be easy on the tyres and the cars.
There is strong competition from the Peugeots and several Minis, but we are looking forward to the rally. I also extend a warm welcome to Erik van Loon. We are happy to welcome him into the team at Overdrive Racing.
Managed and co-ordinated by the Neveu-Pelletier Organisation (NPO), the Rally of Morocco takes place under the patronage of His Majesty The King Mohammed VI. In a total planned route of 1,882km, 1,317km will be timed against the clock over gruelling desert terrain that includes tricky dune crossings, rocky terrain and demanding navigation.
FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies positions after round 7:
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT), 210 points
2. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU), 92 pts
3. Mikko Hirvonen (FIN), 78 pts
4. Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS), 74 pts
5. Marek Dabrowski (POL), 56 pts
6. Bryce Menzies (USA), 55 pts
7. Aron Domzala (POL), 40 pts
8. Yuriy Sazonov (KAZ), 34 pts
10. Jakub Przygonski (POL), 32 pts
10. Yasir Saeidan (SAU), 32 pts…