TERUEL (SPAIN) – Saturday, July 22: Overdrive Racing and Toyota Gazoo Racing enjoyed spectacular success at Baja Spain Aragón with Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Andorra-based co-driver Mathieu Baumel winning the fourth round of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas outright, the Brazilian duo of Lucas Moraes and Kaique Bentivoglio finishing second and six Overdrive-supported Toyotas finishing inside the top 10.
Moraes had been the revelation of his first Dakar back in January with a podium finish and the young Brazilian pushed Al-Attiyah all the way, led after the opening day and eventually reached the finish 1min 43.2sec behind the Qatari. Al-Attiyah duly extended his lead in the FIA World Cup with a sixth win in Spain and a fifth with Baumel.
Al-Attiyah said: “This is a fantastic result for myself and Mathieu and it puts us in a really strong position in the FIA World Cup after four rounds with three wins and one second place.” Moraes said: “I cannot thank this team enough. They delivered an amazing car for the whole race. It was an amazing opportunity for me to drive with this team. Last year we got third, this year we got second behind the GOAT. Maybe next year we can move one step further. Kaique did an amazing job. The pace we kept was unbelievable. We had a blast!”
Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Timo Gottschalk had won the last round of the FIA World Cup in Italy, but they suffered two time-consuming flat tyres on the first stage and then incurred a three-minute time penalty for an overtaking infringement. From then on, the Saudi was playing catch up and the third quickest time on stages two and three lifted the duo to eighth overall.
Young Lithuanian racer Rokas Baciuška teamed up with Oriol Vidal to make his debut in the T1+ category with Overdrive Racing. Despite incurring an eight-minute time penalty for missing route waypoints, the youngster reached the finish in ninth overall.
Juan Cruz Yacopini and Spanish co-driver Dani Oliveras were chasing points towards the Drivers’ and Co-drivers’ Championships but reached the finish in 13th overall.
Overdrive Racing also entered Toyota Hiluxes for Portuguese driver Francisco Barata Barreto and Spain’s Isidre Esteve Pujol and their respective co-drivers, Carlos Silva and José Valcarcel. They were classified in 10th and 16th overall.
Overdrive Racing had run the Portuguese pairing of Tiago Reis and Valter Cardoso to victory at the Baja TT Dehesa Extremadura and offered technical support to the crew in Spain. They were fourth quickest on the final stage and reached the finish in Teruel in fifth place. Because of the Spanish elections taking place on Sunday, the route for the 2023 Baja was compressed into two days with action getting underway with a Prologue stage of 5.83km on Friday morning.
After suffering a scare when his Toyota Hilux was damaged in a freak accident by one of the team before the start, Al-Attiyah showed no effects from the incident and carded the second quickest time of the FIA entrants, the Qatari finishing 0.5 seconds behind Prologue winner Vaidotas Zala. Reis came home in third and Al-Rajhi was fifth. Moraes, Baciuška and Yacopini started cautiously in readiness for the first of the selective sections (179.84km) between Bañón and Cuevas Labradas on Friday afternoon. Moraes belied his lower starting position to carve out the quickest time on the stage to beat Al-Attiyah by 30 seconds on a track where Baciuška finished a fine fourth, Reis was seventh and Barata Barreto stopped the clocks in ninth.
Al-Rajhi was later awarded a three-minute time penalty for an overtaking infringement and slipped down the order, after having stopped to change a tyre and repair damage to the rear of the Toyota on the stage and then being forced to stop and change a second flat tyre later on. He then had to take extra care to reach the finish with no spare tyre available. In the general classification, Moraes snatched the overall advantage from Al-Attiyah by just 21.2 seconds, Reis was sixth, Barata Barreto climbed to eighth, Baciuška slipped back to 11th - after incurring an eight-minute time penalty for missing several route waypoints - Yacopini and Esteve Pujol were 12th and 13thand Al-Rajhi was 17th.
Moraes said: “It was an amazing day for us to be able to win one stage of the World Championship. We are having fun and enjoying the track but being careful sometimes to avoid the rocks. It’s nice to be back after an amazing Dakar.”Action concluded with two selective sections on Saturday, starting with a 155.47km run between Bañón and Celadas. Al-Attiyah was locked in a fascinating duel with Moraes and emerged with the stage win, the Qatari beating his Toyota rival by 1min 23.9sec to snatch an outright lead of 62.7 seconds to take to the final stage.
Moraes said: “It was the same stage of yesterday. In the beginning I was not feeling that comfortable because the rocks were so much higher on the road after so many cars passed yesterday. I did not push that much and then I got going again and had a clean stage. That was the most important.”
Al-Rajhi bounced back strongly with the third quickest time and Reis and Baciuška were fifth and sixth. Held in the punishing heat of a Spanish summer afternoon, the final stage ran for 171.36km between Monreal and Gea. Al-Attiyah kept his nerve to beat Moraes by 40.5 seconds to seal outright victory. Al-Rajhi was third quickest and moved ahead of Baciuška to claim eighth place. Six Overdrive Racing-supported cars completed the event inside the top 10.
The next round of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies takes place in Poland on August 24th-27th.