– Nasser Al-Attiyah claims opening stage win before suffering early retirement
Dutchman Bernhard Ten Brinke and Belgian co-driver Tom Colsoul claimed second place for Overdrive Racing in the Wysoka Grzęda Baja Poland, the second round of the heavily revised and shortened 2020 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas.
With no FIA Cross-Country rallying action taking place in either of the two disciplines since the Qatar Cross-Country Rally in February – over six months ago – it was a welcome return to action for three Toyota Hilux crews after the imposed lockdowns and travel restrictions brought on by the global Covid-19 situation.
Poland’s Jakub Przygonski and German navigator Timo Gottschalk crewed the second of the Overdrive Racing cars with additional support from Orlen and reached the Szczecin finish in fifth place after winning the last two stages.
Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and French navigator Matthieu Baumel crewed the third Toyota Hilux built by Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa and won the opening super special stage. After slipping to second overall on the first of the longer selective sections, their engine filters ingested water and, to prevent further damage on Saturday afternoon, they were forced to retire.
The 2017 FIA World Cup champion said: « It is very disappointing to retire from an event like this, but I was glad to be at Baja Poland after I stayed at home for eight months. Our goal was to win but it was not possible on this occasion. »
Baumel added: « There were very tricky muddy and wet conditions during the second day. Unfortunately, we retired after technical issues caused by the water in the engine. »
The first action in the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas since February got underway with a timed super special stage of 7.33km near the event’s base at Szczecin. Al-Attiyah posted the fastest time of 7min 22sec and that was sufficient to give the Qatari an overnight 11-second lead.
Multiple event winner Krzysztof Holowczyc was second and Al-Attiyah’s Toyota compatriots, Przygonski and Ten Brinke, were fourth and sixth.
The bulk of the action took place over two selective sections of 172.31km at the Drawsko Pomorskie military training grounds on Saturday. Holowczyc was the pacesetter through the opener and a time of 2hrs 09min 37sec gave the Pole an outright lead of 5min 35sec over Al-Attiyah. Przygonski came in a close third and moved up to a similar position in the overall standings and Dakar veteran Stéphane Peterhansel was fourth. Ten Brinke also climbed a place to fifth in the rankings.
Unfortunately, Al-Attiyah’s engine suffered water damage on the muddy and flooded repeat of the stage and the Qatari was forced to retire. Peterhansel claimed the stage win and the outright lead from Ten Brinke with the eighth quickest time giving Przygonski sixth in the rankings after the Pole shed a wheel and spent 40 minutes carrying out repairs.
Ten Brinke said: « We had problems throughout the morning with visibility through the wind shield but the mechanics did a great job to fix it. Then our charging system broke and we had to stop and plug in a spare battery. We managed to restart the car, but we covered the final kilometres with practically no electric devices – lights, wipers or airflow. »
Four short specials followed on Sunday, starting with the 9.59km of a tricky track between Lubieszyn and Dobra. Holowczyc pipped Przygonski to the win by just four seconds but Peterhansel maintained a lead of 14min 14sec over Ten Brinke to take to the next selective section.
The stage ran for 17.33km between Dobra and Szczecin and Holowczyc pipped his Polish rival by 15 seconds on this occasion. Ten Brinke came in fourth and closed the gap on Peterhansel at the top of the standings to 13min 30sec heading into a short break before the two sections were repeated.
A run of 8min 19sec gave Pryzgonski the quickest time on the penultimate stage and the fourth quickest pass enabled Ten Brinke to reduce Peterhansel’s overall lead to 13min 21sec. But the Frenchman held on over the final section to claim victory from the Dutchman by the margin of 12min 48sec. Przygonski came home in fifth after winning the final stage to move ahead of Vasily Gryazin.
The third round of the revised FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas takes place in Portugal on November 5th-7th.
2020 Baja Poland – final positions:
1. Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA)/Edouard Boulanger (FRA) MINI All4 Racing, 5hr 52min 20sec
2. Bernhard Ten Brinke (NLD)/Tom Colsoul (BEL) Toyota Hilux Overdrive, 6hr 05min 08sec
3. Michal Maluszyński (POL)/Julita Maluszyńska (POL) MINI John Cooper Works Rally, 6hr 15min 24sec
4. Aron Domzala (QAT)/Szymon Gospodarcznk (POL) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T4), 6hr 17min 02sec
5. Jakub Przygonski (POL)/Timo Gottschalk (DEU) Toyota Hilux Overdrive, 6hr 28min 12sec
6. Vasily Gryazin (RUS)/Oleg Uperenko (LVA) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3), 6hr 28min 43sec
7. Krzysztof Holowczyc (POL)/Lukasz Kurzeja (POL) MINI John Cooper Works Rally, 8hr 20min 53sec
8. Martin Prokop (CZE)/Viktor Chytka (CZE) Ford Raptor RS Cross-Country, 8hr 39min 57sec
9. Gerard Farrés (ESP)/Armand Monleón (ESP) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T4), 9hrs 28min 15sec
10. Patrycja Brochocka (POL)/Rafal Marton (POL) Toyota Land Cruiser VDJ200, 12hr 48min 00sec
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