AL - ATTIYAH SEAL SECOND SUCCESSIVE FIA WORLD CUP WIN WITH OVERDRIVE RACING TOYOTA AT QATAR`S SEALINE RALLY
LOSAIL (QATAR): Overdrive Racing is on the crest of a wave at the moment after the talented Qatari driver Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah guided his Belgian-built Toyota Hilux to a convincing victory at the Sealine Cross-Country Rally, round three of the 2016 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies, on Friday.
The local driver won four of the punishing five varied selective sections that wound their way across the length and breadth of the gas-rich Middle Eastern State and he and French co-driver Matthieu Baumel dominated the race from the start. Despite a couple of navigational errors and a slow puncture, they paced themselves to perfection to secure a winning margin of 12min 03sec over Saudi Arabian driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi.
The triumph was Al-Attyah’s second at the event with Overdrive Racing and his fifth win at the Sealine Rally in six starts. This year’s success was the third in succession for Baumel and gives Al-Attiyah a commanding lead in the FIA World Cup after three rounds.
The Qatari has collected a maximum 120 points in the month of April after also winning the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.
“It was a good day for us. This is an important win in Qatar,” said Al-Attiyah. “I am quite happy. It was good to control the race all the way. We had the speed if we needed it. After two races I have 120 points. Now we prepare ourselves for the smaller races. And to win at home is fantastic.”
The Polish duo of Marek Dabrowski and Jacek Czachor brought the second Overdrive Racing Toyota Hilux in Orlen Team colours home in a fine sixth overall. They produced a consistent drive from the start, although the Pole blotted his copybook at the start of the third day when he rolled the Toyota over a sand dune.
Qatar’s Khalifa Al-Attiyah and his French navigator Jean-Michel Polato crewed the third Toyota Hilux Overdrive, but crashed heavily out of fourth place on the second day.
“It has been a good April 2016 for Overdrive Racing,” enthused Overdrive Racing’s CEO Jean-Marc Fortin. “We knew we had pressure, but I am delighted that we got the result we deserved. The car ran well on both races (Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge and Sealine). We proved that we have a good car and that with another driver we can compete at the top. We have the exception in this car (Nasser) and we need to enjoy this exception…
“With what happened two days ago, this was a great result for Marek as well. We took a bit too much time to repair the car, but he was on a good rhythm. Obviously Khalifa crashed his car, but these things can happen. It is motor sport. I can allow one or two of these every year maximum, but the car is badly damaged and we fly it back to Belgium straight away to repair it for Italy.”
The trio made a superb start to their Sealine Rally challenge. Al-Attiyah was in cautious mood and reached the finish 44 seconds in front of Yazeed Al-Rajhi to claim the first stage win and the outright lead. His brother Khalifa belied his lack of experience in off-road rallying to hold fourth in the second of the Hiluxes and Dabrowski was a solid sixth.
Al-Attiyah started the second stage of 345.89km cautiously from Al-Kharrara and came under pressure from Al-Rajhi from the outset. But the Qatari maintained his pace to perfection and, when Al-Rajhi punctured and lost his way, the defending champion cruised to the finish to record a second successive stage win and extend his lead to 7min 56sec.
His brother was not so fortunate and both Al-Attiyah and Jean-Michel Polato were fortunate to escape from a high-speed crash that damaged the Toyota, cost them fourth place and put them out of the rally. According to Jean-Marc Fortin, the car was airborne for 50 metres before coming to a virtually instant stop. Dabrowski maintained a consistent pace and overcame some minor issues to hold eighth overall.
Al-Attiyah drove at a steady pace through the third stage as well, the longest of the event at 355.69km, and despite Al-Rajhi matching his split times on occasions and the Toyota picking up a slow puncture, Al-Attiyah extended his lead by another 40 seconds.
“I lost the way a little, but we had a good run without any problems,” said Al-Attiyah. “I am quite happy. This is our plan. We do same speed and we keep everyone behind. Just one slow puncture for the last 100km, but we kept on going.”
Dabrowski finished the day in seventh overall, despite losing around 25 minutes when he rolled the Toyota in the first series of sand dunes. That time loss pushed the Pole down to 15th on the stage. “The damage was only superficial,” admitted Jean-Marc Fortin.
The fourth stage ran for 354.56km between Al-Shabana and Sealine and Al-Attiyah produced a faultless performance to win the special and extend his lead to 13min 58sec.
“I’m happy. We try to do our best every day and control the race,” said Al-Attiyah. “If we have to push, we push, but, if we don’t, we take it easy. I enjoyed the last part in the dunes. I was really pushing and we make a good time there. I will do my pace as normal tomorrow. One time only we stopped to find the road, but nothing serious.”
Dabrowski was also on an impressive pace in the second Overdrive Toyota and the sixth quickest time strengthened the Orlen Team driver’s grip on seventh place.
The last stage started out of Rawdat Rashid and ran for 348.21km to a finish near Sealine. Al-Attiyah drove in a conservative manner and was caught by Al-Rajhi. The rivals reached the stage finish together and Al-Attiyah had done enough to claim the victory. Dabrowski climbed from seventh to sixth when Yerden Shagirov hit trouble near the finish.