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SZCZECIN (POLAND): Overdrive Racing’s season of FIA World Cup for Cross-Country rallying continues when it enters five Toyota Hiluxes in this weekend’s Columna Medica Baja Poland, round seven of the nine-event series, in Szczecin in northwestern Poland

FIA World Cup leader Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah returns from a disappointing skeet shooting programme at the Rio Olympics to try and secure a fifth successive rally victory since joining Overdrive Racing before the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge in April. 

The Qatari again teams up with French navigator Matthieu Baumel and arrives in Szczecin with a massive 88-point lead in the title race. Victory in Poland would give the Qatari a total of 210 points and make it mathematically impossible for him to be caught with two events remaining in Morocco and Portugal.

The Polish duo of Marek Dabrowski and Jacek Czachor return to cross-country action in the second Team Orlen car and aim to improve on the driver’s sixth position in the championship standings. The duo finished fifth on their home event last year in a Toyota Hilux. 

Frenchman Ronan Chabot and his navigator Gilles Pillot crew the third car and the Dane Jes Munk and Polish co-driver Rafal Marton return to action with Overdrive Racing for the first time since visa issues forced them to withdraw prematurely from the recent Silk Way Rally in Asia to occupy the fourth Toyota. Chabot and Pillot enjoyed a successful Dakar outing with the team in January.

Al-Attiyah’s brother Khalifa drives the fifth car with backing from the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF). Although a relative newcomer to the discipline of off-road rallying, Khalifa has considerable experience of FIA Middle East special stage rallying and teams up with Belgian co-driver Stéphane Prevot. The duo finished July’s Baja Spain Aragon together in 13th position, but retired from the recent Hungarian Baja.

Overdrive Racing has also supplied a sixth car for the Polish duo of Marcin Maluszynski and Julita Maluszynska. 

“This is another important event for Overdrive Racing and a superb opportunity for Nasser and Matthieu to secure the title for the team and for our other drivers to continue their experience with the Toyota Hilux,” said Overdrive Racing’s CEO Jean-Marc Fortin.

Columna Medica Rally Poland is being organised by Foundation Baja Poland and takes place in the Szczecin, Dobra, and Zachodniopomorskie areas and across the military zone in Drawsko Pomorskie. The host city of Szczecin is the seventh largest in the country and the capital of the West Pomeranian Voivodeship. 

The Northeast Marina will host scrutineering checks and administration in Szczecin on Thursday (August 25), before crews will be permitted to carry out a shakedown test at the nearby military range on Friday morning. 

After the ceremonial start in Szczecin at 17.00hrs on Friday evening, teams will then tackle the opening 6.9km super special stage in the militarised area from 18.00hrs. 

Saturday’s action comprises two selective sections of 175km apiece in the militarised area around Drawsko Pomorskie from 08.20hrs and 13.40hrs.

Sunday’s action consists of two repeat runs through a pair of shorter special stages of 39.50km and 18.20km in length. These Dobra and Lubieszyhn specials will then be repeated at 12.30hrs and 13.20hrs, before the ceremonial finish in the Szczecin Rally Park from 14.30pm. In a total route of 787.68km, teams will tackle a total of 472.30 competitive kilometres.