Overdrive Racing’s Al-Rajhi and Gottschalk confirm second in FIA World Cup standings with second place in Dubai International Baja

– Toyota’s Quintero and Zenz impress on debut appearance in Hilux
– Juan Cruz Yacopini and Ronan Chabot finish third and sixth overall

Overdrive Racing’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Timo Gottschalk finished second overall at the Dubai International Baja and that was sufficient to confirm similar finishing positions in the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas Drivers’ and Co-Drivers’ Championships.

Al-Rajhi won the last stage and wrapped up his part-time campaign in the FIA World Cup after taking victory in Italy and second places in Portugal and Dubai.

The Saudi said: « We won the last stage. We catch Seth (Quintero) after 60km, we overtake him and we continue to push. We did a god job. It was a nice event. »

Juan-Cruz Yacopini and Daniel Oliveras were fourth quickest on the last stage and that moved the Argentine and the Spaniard into third overall in the general classification.

« No problem on the last stage and the car worked really good, » said Yacopini. « It’s the last time I drive the car this year and it was a great year for me. I became a platinum driver, third in the cross-country (W2RC) championship and fourth in the Bajas World Championship. I was learning day-by-day. Thanks to Dani, my family and all the team at Overdrive for a great job. »

The French duo of Ronan Chabot and Gilles Pillot entered the event as a test session for the Dakar Rally in January and reached the finish in an excellent fifth place in the third of the Overdrive Racing Toyotas. A 15-minute time penalty for missing a waypoint dropped them to sixth in the final results.

Toyota Gazoo Racing announced a couple of days before the start that Seth Quintero and Dennis Zenz would join the team for the 2024 Dakar Rally and the recently-crowned W2RC T3 champions impressed on the final round of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas.

After replacing Eugenio Amos and Paulo Ceci on the entry list, the American and the German held second overall at the start of the final stage but a broken rear differential meant that they failed to finish the last section and slipped down the rankings to 16th as a result of time penalties.

Denis Krotov and Konstantin Zhiltsov crewed the last of the Overdrive Toyotas and held fourth overall at the end of the first day in the desert before retiring on the final stage.

Action got underway on Friday evening with a two-kilometre Prologue at Dubai’s Festival City, which ran in the dark for the first time and attracted a large number of spectators. Al-Rajhi, Quintero and Yacopini shadowed Al-Attiyah in second, third and fourth positions and Chabot and Krotov slotted into ninth and 10th.

Al-Rajhi said: « Everything is going well for us but we lost a couple of seconds in the corners because we didn’t have additional light. I do a lot of night racing before because I used to be a WRC driver, many stages on snow and ice in the night, like Arctic Rally. A lot of super special stages in the WRC were in the night! »

Saturday’s second stage through the Al-Qudra Desert was split into two competitive sections of 84.33km and 84.58km by a neutralisation or non-competitive zone. Quintero was a man on a mission and the American belied his lack of experience in the Toyota Hilux to set the second quickest time behind Al-Attiyah and move into a similar position in the rankings. The W2RC T3 champion trailed the Qatari by 58.8 seconds at the night halt.

Quintero said: « It was a super awesome day. First time driving the Toyota Hilux T1+ in a race and it was amazing honestly. Expectations weren’t very high but we exceeded them. The stage was pretty slow and it was pretty choppy in the dunes and the navigation was difficult. »

Al-Rajhi came home in third place, Krotov and Chabot were fourth and sixth but Yacopini dropped over 20 minutes and slipped to eighth overall.

Chabot said: « I am here to prepare for the next Dakar. Today, two stages with sand and dunes and nothing difficult. We’re happy to drive here again and take the feeling for January. It was a good day. »

The third stage also ran through the Al-Qudra Desert and featured two competitive sections of 84.90km and 83.72km before the return to Festival City for the finish ceremony. Al-Rajhi claimed the win by over two minutes from the Baja-winning Al-Attiyah, Yacopini came home in third and Chabot was fourth.

2023 Dubai International Baja – final result
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Mathieu Baumel (AND) BRX Prodrive Hunter, 5hr 22min 52.3sec
2. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Timo Gottschalk (DEU) Toyota Hilux Overdrive, 5hr 28min 06.2sec
3. Juan Cruz Yacopini (ARG)/Dani Oliveras (ESP) Toyota Hilux Overdrive, 5hr 48min 35.9sec
4. João Ferreira (PRT)/Filipe Palmeiro (PRT) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR (T4), 5hr 48min 48.1sec
5. Otavio Sousa (BRA)/João Ferreira (PRT) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3), 6hr 04min 05.5sec
6. Ronan Chabot (FRA)/Gilles Pillot (FRA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive, 6hr 07min 44.6sec
7. Cristiano De Sousa Batista (BRA)/Fausto Mota (PRT) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3), 6hr 09min 34.9sec
8. Amerigo Ventura (ITA)/Mirko Brun (ITA) Yamaha YXZ 1000 R SS (T4), 6hr 25min 42.2sec
9. Dania Akeel (SAU)/Taye Perry (DEU) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3,) 6hr 32min 50.3sec
10. Aliyyah Koloc (ARE)/Riann Greyling (ZAF) Red-Lined Revo T1+, 6hr 58min 19.4sec
16. Seth Quintero (USA)/Dennis Zenz (DEU) Toyota Hilux Overdrive, 13hr 31min 09.4sec
Denis Krotov (KYR)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (ISR) Toyota Hilux Overdrive, DNF
T1+ unless stated