Fire destroys Al-Rajhi’s and Orr’s hopes of extending FIA World Cup lead in Poland

Yazeed Al-Rajhi and co-driver Michael Orr suffered a severe setback to their challenge for the 2022 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas titles, when their Overdrive Racing Toyota Hilux was destroyed by a freak fire on the third stage of the Columna Medica Baja Poland.

The Saudi had been lying in second overall on the fifth round of the championship and was in a strong position to apply the pressure on local driver Krzysztof Holowczyc when the incident occurred. Both Al-Rajhi and Orr were able to abandon the car but the fire quickly took hold and the Toyota was destroyed in the incident. Orr also suffered an ankle injury trying to extricate himself from the vehicle and will be out of action for a short period as a result.

The incident meant the Saudi was not able to add to his points’ tally on the Szczecin-based event and will need to regroup before the remaining three rounds of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas in Portugal, Saudi Arabia and Dubai.

Polish Baja officials had made minor route modifications before the three-day event got underway from Szczecin.

The competitive distance was reduced from 491.30km to 488.91km by trimming the opening Qualifying Stage to 5.83km, taking six kilometres of competitive distance off both runs through the Drawsko Pomorskie military proving grounds (210.84km) and then extending both of the shorter Sunday selective sections to 30.70km apiece.

Al-Rajhi finished third of the FIA competitors through the opening stage and first of the drivers registered for the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas. The Saudi carded a time of 4min 56.2sec that put him behind Holowczyc and Benediktas Vanagas in the overall rankings.

Al-Rajhi said: « We came here leading the FIA World Cup and we wanted to extend our lead. On this stage, two times we made an overshoot and we had to reverse, but everything was good. »

The second quickest time on the first of two runs through the Drawsko Pomorskie section lifted the Saudi to second in the rankings, behind Holowczyc, and the Toyota driver continued to lead the registered FIA World Cup runners.

Co-driver Orr said: « It was a long stage. We have had very nice weather conditions. Normally there is a lot of rain in Poland but it was perfect and we could enjoy it. The stage was more difficult than I expected. It was easy to make a mistake with the navigation and we saw a lot of T3 cars lost and driving in the wrong place. We didn’t push too much but we had two overshoots. In one place we missed one fork and we went the wrong way and caught a lot of our own dust. »

Sadly, Al-Rajhi’s title challenge suffered the setback on the second pass through the Drawsko Pomorskie stage, when the Toyota Hilux caught fire and was quickly destroyed by the blaze. Baja officials duly took the decision to shorten the stage to 138.62km as a result of the significant time delay.

The next round of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas will be Baja Portalegre in Portugal at the end of October.