Qatar’s Adel Abdulla and French navigator Jean-Michel Polato confirmed second position in the T2 category for series production cross-country vehicles at the 25th Italian Baja on Sunday.
The Qatari, driving a new Toyota Land Cruiser, had led the sixth round of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies at the overnight halt before incurring time penalties and he eventually reached the finish in Pordenone 7min 34.7sec behind the Polish duo of Tomasz Piec and Michal Marczewski in their Toyota Land Cruiser.
Arch rival Ahmed Al-Shegawi and his French co-pilot Laurent Lichtleuchter finished third and that enabled Adel Abdulla to close the gap on the Saudi driver to 23 points in the FIA T2 World Championship.
Adel Abdulla had been quickest through the first of the three 86.85km Valvadrom special stages between San Lorenzo de Arzena and Valvazone on Saturday and another fastest time of 1hr 18min 42sec through the second one gave the Qatari the outright lead for the first time by the margin of 3min 48.3sec.
Al-Shegawi won the third pass in a time of 1hr 18min 06sec, but Adel Abdulla reached the overnight halt with an outright T2 lead of 4min 08.3sec over Piec.
Two runs through a stage of 87.41km were on the agenda for Sunday and the Qatari clocked a time of 1hr 18min 32sec through the opener, but he incurred 16 minutes of time penalties after a time-consuming alternator change and duly slipped behind Piec in the overall standings heading to the final stage.
Al-Shegawi topped the times in the final stage by 48 seconds but the second fastest time confirmed the runner-up position in the general classification for Adel Abdulla behind Piec.
Adel said: « We started the day leading T2. It was in our minds that the stage would be tough because it was the fourth and fifth passes for all the cars, albeit from the other direction. We pushed in the good places and I was careful in the bad places, especially in the rivers.
« Around 12km from the finish, we had a battery signal on and off and something was wrong with the alternator. We finished the stage with a good time and maintained our lead. We came back to service and the mechanics discovered that the alternator had broken in the mud. Service time was only 30 minutes, so it took us 46 minutes to change it and we were given a 16-minute penalty because of that.
« We dropped from first to second by 11 minutes. I pushed really hard on the last stage to try to catch the Polish driver. We took time back but we finished in second position. It is a good result after all the problems we had from the beginning of the race and the 18 points is important. We managed to take three points from Al-Shegawi. There are still five rounds to go and the gap is only 23 points.
« I say a big thanks to the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF) and Ooredoo Qatar for their support and to our Government for making this possible. »
Action in the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies resumes with Baja Spain Aragón on July 20-22.
2018 Italian Baja – T2 positions after SS6:
1. Tomasz Piec (POL)/Michal Marczewski (POL) Toyota Land Cruiser, 6hrs 52min 45.3sec
2. Adel Abdulla (QAT)/Jean-Michel Polato (FRA) Toyota Land Cruiser, 7hrs 00min 20.0sec
3. Ahmed Al-Shegawi (SAU)/Laurent Lichtleuchter (FRA) Toyota Land Cruiser, 7hrs 06min 47.1sec…
FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies – T2 standings after round 6: 1. Ahmed Al-Shegawi (SAU), 140 points ; 2. Adel Abdulla (QAT), 117 pts ; 3. Konstantin Ivanov (RUS), 50 pts ; 4. Yuliya Khegay-Migunova (RUS), 42 pts ; 5. Marat Abykayev (KAZ), 36 pts ; 6. Alexey Titov (RUS), 25 pts ; 6. Tomasz Piec (POL), 25 pts…