– Overdrive Racing’s Lucio Alvarez finishes fifth overall
– Valuable test session for Chabot and Yacopini in T1+ cars
Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah confirmed a career fifth FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies Drivers’ Championship with a start-to-finish victory at the Hail Cross-Country Rally in Saudi Arabia on Saturday.
The Toyota Gazoo Hilux driver and his French co-driver Matthieu Baumel won three of the event’s four selective sections to seal a third Hail International Rally win for the Qatari and a fourth for Baumel by the margin of 21min 51sec. Al-Attiyah and Baumel duly confirmed their fourth FIA World Cup title together to add to the three successive wins between 2015 and 2017.
It was always going to be a tall order for Lucio Alvarez to win the FIA World Cup Drivers’ title. The Argentine and Spanish navigator Armand Monleón reached the finish in fifth place and the Overdrive Racing Toyota driver confirmed the runner-up spot in the Drivers’ Championship.
Al-Attiyah said: « It was a good last stage and completely different to the first three. It was all gravel through the mountains. It was fantastic and we are obviously very happy with the result. I am so happy to win this race and to win the World Cup title. It was a great win. This was the last time for me in this car. The next step will be the T1+ in Dakar! »
Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Ulster co-driver Michael Orr had been on the pace of Al-Attiyah through the opening stage until gearbox issues intervened. The decision was taken to withdraw the Overdrive Toyota from the race and Al-Rajhi missed out on the chance to push Alvarez for second in the title race.
The French duo of Ronan Chabot and Gilles Pillot and the Argentine pairing of Juan Cruz and Alejandro Yacopini took the opportunity to test drive the latest Toyota Hilux T1+ at the Hail event. Both crews revelled in the experience with the 2022 specification car and set competitive stage times over the four days.
« This is a fantastic result for the whole team, a useful test session for everyone before the Dakar Rally, a perfect send off for the older specification Toyota Hilux and a chance for Ronan and Juan Cruz to drive the latest specification T1+ before the Dakar, » said a delighted Overdrive Racing’s CEO Jean-Marc Fortin. « Congratulations to the whole team. It is always a pleasure to work with everyone and we showed again with this result that we have the best team in the world. »
Al-Attiyah started behind the three 2022 specification machines on the opening selective section of 258.14km and managed to pass all three before the half-way point. The Qatari went on to win the stage by 6min 05sec to claim 1.5 valuable World Cup points but, more importantly, he beat seventh-placed Alvarez by 22min 16sec.
Al-Attiyah’s co-driver Baumel said: « We started first of the T1 cars, but the T1 2022 specification cars started before us. We passed all three of them during the day and we opened the road half the way. It was not an easy stage. The first part was more navigation and off-track and the second part was faster. It was a nice day and we had a good result. We need to win two stages to get the World Cup. That is the goal for this rally. »
Al-Rajhi was running second quickest until the last section when a gearbox issue intervened and cost the Saudi 1hr 48min to the leader. Both Chabot and Yacopini adjusted well to the latest specification Toyota and set competitive times on their debut.
The decision was taken to withdraw Al-Rajhi before the start of the second 314km selective section. Al-Attiyah opened the road, managed to pass the three 2022 specification vehicles and only dropped 69 seconds to the stage-winning Jakub Przygonski. By finishing second, the Qatari added another bonus point to the 1.5 he earned for the quickest time on day one and made it mathematically impossible for team-mate Alvarez to steal the FIA World Cup title.
Alvarez was fourth on the stage and moved up a place to sixth, while Yacopini and Chabot gained more kilometres in the new Toyotas, although Chabot was delayed on the special and incurred time penalties.
Stage three ran for 249km and Al-Attiyah took advantage of running second on the road to claim another fastest time. The Qatari managed to beat Vladimir Vasilyev to the stage win by 3min 57sec and extended his lead over Denis Krotov to 18min 18sec. Alvarez came home in fourth and moved up to fifth in the rankings when Przygonski was delayed. Both Chabot and Yacopini enjoyed clean runs through the desert in the 2022 specification Toyotas.
There were no dramas for Al-Attiyah through the short final stage of 148km and the Qatari duly confirmed the rally win and a fifth FIA World Cup title. Alvarez’s consolation was the runner-up spot in the title race.
Overdrive Racing and Toyota Gazoo Racing now switch their attention to the Dakar Rally at the start of January.
2021 Hail Cross-Country Rally – result:
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Toyota Gazoo Hilux, 10hr 50min 23sec
2. Denis Krotov (RUS)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS) MINI John Cooper Works Buggy, 11hr 12min 14sec
3. Sebastien Halpern (ARG)/Bernardo Graue (ARG) MINI John Cooper Works Buggy, 11hr 19min 07sec
4. Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS)/Oleg Uperenko (LVA) BMW X5, 11hr 19min 50sec
5. Lucio Alvarez (ARG)/Armand Monleón (ESP) Toyota Hilux Overdrive, 11hr 25min 31sec
6. Jakub Przygonski (POL)/Timo Gottschalk (DEU) MINI John Cooper Works Buggy, 11hr 38min 38sec…
Juan Cruz Yacopini (ARG)/Alejandro Yacopini (ARG) Toyota Hilux Overdrive T1+, 12hr 55min 04sec
Ronan Chabot (FRA)/Gilles Pillot (FRA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive T1+, 29hr 21min 22sec