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CC Dania Akeel wraps up FIA T3 World Cup title with fourth place in Italy


Italian Baja – September 9-11, 2021
FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas, round 8
FIA European Cup for Cross-Country Bajas, round 4

For immediate release
Sunday, September 12th, 2021

SAUDI ARABIA’S DANIA AKEEL WRAPS UP FIA T3
WORLD CUP FOR BAJAS TITLE WITH FOURTH PLACE IN ITALY

PORDENONE (ITALY): Saudi Arabia’s top female driver Dania Akeel confirmed the FIA T3 Drivers’ Championship title in the 2021 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas with a hard-earned fourth place at the Italian Baja.

Partnered by Frenchman Stéphane Duple on the two-day northern Italian off-road classic, Akeel drove at a measured and cautious pace over the five demanding gravel stages across the northern Italian riverbeds and glacial flood plains to earn another vital haul of points.

She duly confirmed victory in the FIA T3 category with one round remaining and stayed in contention for success in the FIA European Cup for Cross-Country Bajas at the wheel of an RM Sport-prepared Mamba side-by-side vehicle.

Akeel said: “I finished the Italian Baja and, according to the FIA calculations, that gives me the FIA T3 World Championship. I am so happy. I was disappointed today because we lost some time in the car. But I decided to just focus on finishing the race and collect points to win the championship. I felt more comfortable as the time went on, with the gravel, the terrain the water and the rivers.

“I enjoyed it a lot. I was nervous this morning. I could not have done this without my co-driver, RM Sport and the Saudi Motor Sports Federation. They informed me and educated me about the sport and how to go about it. That was priceless knowledge. Every single entity contributed towards this. We started working on this in February and now it’s September and it has been time well spent.”

The weekend’s action got underway with a qualifying stage of 7.55km at Meduna. This enabled Baja officials to arrange the starting order for the opening selective section of 74.94km that was held across the nearby gravel riverbeds and flood plains late on Friday afternoon.

“We had a shakedown in the morning, about 20km,” said Akeel. “It was fun. I felt the car was slipping and sliding and I thought there was something wrong. But Stéphane told me it was normal here because the terrain has these small stones.

“He advised me to stay in the middle of the track where the cars were running before me and we have more grip. Between Poland and Italy I went to France to train with Christian Lavieille, a top French pilot. He gave me a lot of advice and tips about the balance of the car. That has changed my whole view on driving, even though it is my first season.”

Akeel slotted into fourth in the FIA T3 section after the qualifying stage with a cautious time of 9min 31.7sec. Eventual winner Santiago Navarro led the category from Jesus Fuster and Filipe Nascimento.

Navarro extended his T3 lead through the day’s demanding selective section and all five T3 runners survived the rigours of the special, with Akeel retaining fourth place. “In the morning the thing I thought I would be most concerned about was the grip but I completely forgot about that in the first 20km,” said the Saudi.

”The visibility was very poor. There was a fog and the sun started to set and it went dark. I forgot about the issues in the morning. It was more about finding the track and the outline of the trees. It was a real challenge. When it became night time, the obstacles increased. That is what the sport is about.”

Three runs through a selective section of 92.31km between Pasch and Dignano were on the cards for the final day with a non-competitive neutralisation zone slotted into the stage after 12.40km.

Navarro continued to edge clear of his rivals with the fastest run on the opener but Akeel slipped to fifth in the rankings. She remained firmly on course, however, for the points that would cement the FIA T3 World Cup title.

“The first lap was great compared to yesterday. But we only had two-wheel drive. It made it difficult to go fast. We were sliding and we had to make sure we didn’t tip over. All the water was coming in and we really had to push the car to get through.”

Navarro shaved two minutes off his first pass to extend his T3 lead on run two and another solid drive by Akeel kept her on track for a vital finish on the deteriorating stage surface. She headed to the final stage in fifth place.

As Navarro secured the win to strengthen his grip on the T3 section of the FIA European Cup, Akeel crossed the finish line in fourth to seal the FIA World Cup’s T3 crown.

The Saudi female driver will now concentrate on preparations for the 2022 Dakar Rally in her native Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

2021 Italian Baja – FIA T3 result
1. Santiago Navarro (ESP)/Marc Solà (ESP) Overdrive OT3 5hr 35min 34.5sec
2. Jesus Fuster (ESP)/Gabriel Lopez (ESP) Herrator HRX3 6hr 28min 45.5sec
3. Filipe Nascimento (PRT)/Paulo Torres (PRT) DPR by PRK Sport 002 6hr 32min 28.7sec
4. Dania Akeel (SAU)/Stéphane Duple (FRA) RM Sport Mamba 6hr 45min 40.7sec
Lina van der Mars (DEU)/Lisette Bakker (NLD) Polaris Pro XP DNF

Ends

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Date issued: 12/09/2021

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