Overdrive Racing faces one of its busiest and most important week’s of the motor sporting calendar when it runs six Toyota Hiluxes and oversees four OT3s at the forthcoming Rally of Morocco, round four of the 2021 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies.
The Zagora-based event will be fought out over a Qualifying stage and five demanding desert selective sections and starts on Friday, October 8th with the final stage and finishing ceremony set for Wednesday, October 13th.
Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah, Argentina’s Lucio Alvarez and Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi are all challenging for FIA World Cup championship points and will drive three of the current specification Toyotas in Morocco.
Al-Attiyah and French co-driver Matthieu Baumel won the Andalucia round of the series in Spain and currently trail series leader Denis Krotov by just half a point. The Qatari and Baumel have won the Moroccan event on five occasions (2014-2018) and know that another success in North Africa would seriously boost their title challenge before the series reaches its conclusion in Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia at the end of the year.
Alvarez is joint third in the title race with Sweden’s Matthias Ekström and trails Al-Attiyah by just two points. A career-best victory for the Argentine in Kazakhstan in June catapulted him into contention and he again teams up with Spanish co-driver Armand Monleón in Morocco.
Al-Rajhi is classified in sixth place in the standings, albeit just eight points off the lead, and the Saudi and Ulster co-driver Michael Orr know full well that a podium finish in Morocco would give them an excellent chance of moving into contention for the title before the two remaining Gulf-based events in November and December.
Frenchman Ronan Chabot is eighth in the rankings and teams up with Gilles Pillot in a fourth Overdrive Racing Toyota. Argentina’s Juan Cruz Yacopini and Alejandro Yacopini crew a fifth car, with Overdrive Racing also supporting other privateer customers on the entry list.
Dutchman Erik van Loon and French co-driver Sebastien Delaunay will be in the spotlight from the start. They will crew the latest specification Toyota Hilux T1+ and run as a course opening car to test the new Dakar machine in a competitive environment. Van Loon will not be eligible for championship points. The new car features numerous improvements, including larger wheels and tyres and greater suspension travel.
Van Loon said: “It will be a different rally for us than we are used to. Usually the cars are tested outside the rallies by Overdrive Racing and Toyota Gazoo Racing. But there are some really interesting rule changes coming up and, to experience that, we have to test it for ourselves. Some new parts have not yet been homologated by the FIA, so we will run ahead of the other cars and use the rally as a test for the new car.”
Overdrive Racing will also oversee a pair of Red Bull Off-Road Junior Racing Team OT3s for America’s Seth Quintero and Spain’s Cristina Gutierrez in the FIA T3 category and a pair of 2022-specification OT3 T3+ machines for Spanish drivers, Santiago Navarro and Gael Queralt.
Gutierrez currently holds a comfortable lead over closest Spanish rival Fernando Alvarez in the FIA T3 Championship. She teams up with Frenchman François Cazalet, while Germany’s Dennis Zenz sits alongside Quintero.
“It is a very busy rally for the whole team. Erik is driving the new T1+ as an opening car and we have Nasser, Yazeed and Lucio with the existing versions of the Toyota Hilux,” said Overdrive Racing’s team principal Jean-Marc Fortin.
“They are driving those because they are competing for the FIA World Cup. We also have Ronan Chabot and Juan Cruz Yacopini. Plus we have four OT3. Two T3+ to the latest specification and two normal T3s supported by Red Bull.”
Scrutineering and administration checks will take place on Thursday and Friday (October 7th-8th).
There will be a 10km Qualifying Stage on Friday afternoon from 16.42hrs and the leading cars will then start the first of the five desert stages from 09.13hrs on Saturday (October 9th). The first 298.24km desert stage will be split into two sections.
Competitors will tackle 1633.52km against the clock over the six days in a total route of 2686.80km.