CC Al-Attiyah wins Qatar Cross-Country Rally for seventh time in nine years

Media Information

2020 Manateq Qatar Cross-Country Rally
February 22-27, 2020


· Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Jakub Przygonski round off Toyota 1-2-3 finish
· OT3 by Overdrive’s Koolen finishes seventh but late drama for Vorobyev

LUSAIL (QATAR) – Thursday, February 27: Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and French navigator Matthieu Baumel sealed a comfortable victory in the five-day Manateq Qatar Cross-Country Rally (MQCCR), round one of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies.

The Qatari won four of the event’s five legs to collect additional bonus points and provisionally move 10 points clear of team-mate Yazeed Al-Rajhi in the Drivers’ Championship. His winning margin was 1hr 31min 40sec.

The 2017 FIA World Cup champion said: “We are quite happy to take this win. This was not an easy race with lots of navigation. Today we have three flat tyres. It was not easy for the tyres here. The last 50km, we lost the pressure in the tyres and we reached the finish line with two punctures. But I won the stage and I lead the championship, so we are happy.”

Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Michael Orr claimed one stage win and finished the last timed section in third place to confirm the runner-up spot in the second of the Overdrive Toyotas. They also suffered tyre wear on the abrasive rocky terrain and were handed a 10-minute time penalty for not putting a damaged wheel and tyre back in the car after an on-stage change.

“We have a small tyre problem,” said Al-Rajhi. “The tyre stripped out. That was all except for one puncture. We stopped to change it. Then we took it easy. I am happy with this position. That was our plan. Let’s see what happens in the future.”

Poland’s Jakub Przygonski and German navigator Timo Gottschalk battled back from a near two-hour time loss on day two to secure the final podium place on their first appearance together in a Toyota.

Broken steering and punctures had pushed the 2018 FIA World Cup champion down to seventh at the start of day three, but the Pole found an impressive rhythm for the remainder of the rally and was second quickest on the last stage he too crossing the finish line with two flat tyres.

“We are pleased with this position after the problems. In the end, it was a good race for us. We learn the car and know what to do to be faster in this car.”

Jean-Marc Fortin, CEO of Overdrive Racing, said: “This is a fantastic result. I wasn’t even able to use team orders because they made them by themselves on stage two. It was not easy, as we were expecting. Nasser did a fantastic race. We know on his own rally that he can be unbeatable.

“After that, Yazeed and Kuba. Kuba make a quick learning of the car. We saw his time today. He was very fast. This is good for the future. We know where we are with this tyre problem. We are working with BF (Goodrich) at the moment. They came here to Qatar to react quickly. We are getting there. Maybe we get some new evolution and we come to Qatar again to test. This is the most extreme terrain and it is like that.”

Overdrive Racing teamed up with Red Bull new OT3 by Overdrive to run a pair of T3s for Dutch businessman Kees Koolen and Russian driver Fedor Vorobyev, Koolen set consistent times from the start and reached the finish in seventh overall and fourth in T3.

Vorobyev looked set for a strong final stage performance until he damaged the rear suspension on his OT3 heading into the final kilometres. He managed to cross the finish line and survived to reach the end of the rally with time penalties that pushed him down to 13th.

Last Sunday, Al-Attiyah coasted into a comfortable lead of 5min 50sec after the opening 171.25km selective section, despite one puncture. Al-Rajhi and Przygonski also sustained a flat tyre apiece and the Saudi complained of losing his brakes 40km from the stage finish. Nevertheless, the Toyota trio were the class of the field and held the top three positions.

Al-Attiyah said: “It’s never easy because the road is really difficult from the beginning. We didn’t make any mistakes, except one flat tyre, and then we need to manage without any mistakes and without getting lost. We have a good pace. Tomorrow is a long stage. Always in Qatar we have flat tyres but we try to manage with a good speed.”

The two OT3s made a solid start with Vorobyev holding third in the T3 section behind Khalid Al-Mohannadi and Austin Jones and Koolen coming home in ninth after running near the top of the leader board early in the special.

The second stage of 334.25km wound its way round the northern deserts and down the west coast. It was a day of mixed fortunes for the Overdrive Racing team, with Al-Attiyah in rampant form as he cruised to the stage win by the winning margin of 37min 03sec to extend his overall lead to over 66 minutes.

“It was a good day except for one tyre that was completely destroyed in the last 50km. We had a good run and good navigation. This rally is very difficult if you don’t take care with the speed. You will get a lot of problems. From the beginning, it was very tricky. Matthieu did a good job. Sometimes we were searching for the correct road.”

Al-Rajhi suffered power steering issues, a couple of flat tyres and a cracked windscreen after a heavy landing in a ditch. Despite having to stop to add oil to the system and change tyres, the Saudi recorded the fifth quickest time and held third overall, a mere 1min 38sec behind second-placed Austin Jones.

Przygonski was in to a competitive pace from the outset and was running close to Al-Attiyah’s speed early in the stage. A heavy landing in a ditch damaged the car’s steering arm and the crew spent nearly two hours making emergency repairs. The Pole managed to claw some time back over the closing kilometres but dropped to seventh overall, two hours behind the leader.

Koolen and Vorobyev were fifth and ninth on the day in the T3 category, the latter losing a lot of time after an unfortunate accident close to the finish of the special. They were classified eighth and 11th in the overall standings.

Another fastest time enabled Al-Attiyah to extend his advantage to 1hr 21min 18sec on the third stage of 340.28km and it was a good day for Przygonski. The Pole found a competitive rhythm from the outset and climbed to third overall with the second fastest time. Al-Rajhi survived an unfortunate dune collision with a competitor and a couple of punctures to come home in third to shadow Al-Attiyah into the penultimate day.

Vorobyev and Koolen were third and fourth in T3 with their OT3s and held fourth and fifth in the general rankings. The Dutchman said: “It’s like it is in Qatar, very difficult navigation and stones, stones and more stones. We all have more or less the same speed and see each other a lot. Turn-by-turn me make a small mistake. Not even a puncture today.”

Day four’s action was reduced to just 119.39km because of adverse weather conditions and strong winds, with the fourth stage modified and the shorter second one cancelled. Al-Rajhi claimed the stage win from Przygonski and Al-Attiyah after both his team-mates collecting flat tyres. The result meant that the Qatari took a lead of 1hr 16min 08sec into the final 254.48km stage.

The final stage was not affected by the weather and Al-Attiyah was able to control his pace to confirm a convincing win, despite the fact that all three Toyotas were plagued by punctures and tyre damage on the abrasive rocky surfaces.

The next round of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies is the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge at the end of March.

2020 Manateq Qatar Cross-Country Rally – overall positions after leg 5
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 11hr 48min 56sec
2. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Michael Orr (GBR) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 13hr 20min 36sec
3. Jakub Przygonski (POL)/Timo Gottschalk (DEU) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 13hr 50min 19sec
4. Ahmed Al-Kuwari (QAT)/Manuel Lucchese (ITA) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3) 15hr 25min 09sec
5. Saleh Al-Saif (SAU)/Ali Hassan Obaid (ARE) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3) 15hr 36min 06sec
6. Khalid Al-Mohannadi (QAT)/Sébastien Delaunay (FRA) Polaris RZR 1000 Turbo (T3) 15hr 39min 30sec
7. Kees Koolen (NLD)/Serge Bruynkens (BEL) OT3 by Overdrive (T3) 15hr 49min 02sec
8. Balazs Szalay (HUN)/Laszlo Bunnozci (HUN) Opel Grandland X 16hr 30min 43sec
9. Aleksey Shmotov (RUS)/Andrey Rudnitski (RUS) Can-Am Maverick (T3) 18hr 20min 02sec
10. Mohammed Al-Harqan (QAT)/Vili Oslaj (SLO) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3) 19hr 33min 01sec
11. Rashed Al-Mohannadi (QAT)/Pedro Santos (PRT) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3) 19hr 45min 00sec
12. Mubarak Al-Hajri (QAT)/Laurent Lichtleuchter (FRA) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3) 26hr 41min 28sec
13. Fedor Vorobyev (RUS)/Kirill Shubin (RUS) OT3 by Overdrive (T3) 31hr 06min 14sec
14. Austin Jones (USA)/Gustavo Gugelmin (BRA) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3) 38hr 49min 53sec
15. Mohammed Al-Meer (QAT)/Alexey Kuzmich (RUS) Chevrolet Buggy 102hr 08min 17sec


For further information:
Jean-Marc Fortin (E-mail: jmf@overdriveracing.be), Overdrive S.A., rue de L’Enterprise 1, 4530 Villers-le-Bouillet, Belgium, Tel: + 32 475 762 391. www.overdriveracing.be, Facebook: Overdrive Racing, Twitter: @OverdriveToyota


Date issued: 27/02/2020

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