CC Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah heads Toyota 1-2-3 finish in shortened Qatar Baja
2022 Qatar International Baja
FIA Middle East Cup for Cross-Country Bajas, round 2
March 24-26, 2022
NASSER AL-ATTIYAH HEADS TOYOTA 1-2-3 FINISH IN SHORTENED QATAR BAJA
LUSAIL (QATAR) – Saturday, March 26: Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel continued their remarkable run of successes by securing victory at the Qatar International Baja, round two of the 2022 FIA Middle East Cup for Cross-Country Bajas.
Following the cancellation of Rally Kazakhstan, Al-Attiyah added his home Baja to his racing calendar and Toyota Gazoo Racing and Overdrive Racing used the kilometres on offer to further develop the latest specification Toyota Hilux DKR T1+ that won the Dakar Rally in January.
Despite inclement weather conditions forcing event officials to cancel the final day’s action in the western and southern Qatar deserts, Al-At
tiyah had done enough on the opening stage to win the rally by the margin of 3min 52.6sec.
“Safety is the most important thing for everyone and it was the only decision to cancel the stage today,” said Al-Attiyah. “It would have been a good fight. I was very happy with the way the car performed yesterday and I am always so happy to win races in Qatar. This terrain is tough and the navigation is never easy.”
Al-Attiyah led from the opening Qualifying Stage with Overdrive Racing team-mates, Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Michael Orr, also using the latest V6-engined Toyota with great effect to win stage three and secure second overall.
Al-Rajhi said: “It was a clever and good decision to cancel the stage, safety is very important. There was a lot of wind and dust and the organisers tried to push us to CP1 to try and see how it was. We could not see, so it was a good decision. We want to do motor sport in a safe way. Sure I am happy with my position. Second place in Qatar, you have to be happy. To win here is difficult. Nasser has a lot of experience.”
Fellow Saudi Yasir Seaidan teamed up with French co-driver Laurent Lichtleuchter in a third Overdrive Racing Toyota and overcame several time-consuming navigational errors on day two to round off the podium places and give Toyota a 1-2-3 finish.
Action got underway with a Qualifying Stage of 9.20km on Thursday afternoon.
Before the start, Al-Attiyah said: “For me, I will do my best to get a good road position on the Qualifying Stage. The reason we are here in Qatar with Toyota is to continue the testing. This race was not in our programme. Kazakhstan was the plan but that race was cancelled. So we decided to come here and to test more things and get ready for the next race in Andalucia.”
Seaidan added: “I’ve been racing in Qatar already, maybe seven times. I started my first World Cup in T3 in 2012. It’s the most difficult rally for navigation and hard also for drivers, too much rocks and punctures. Drivers must be focused. It looks like you can drive fast but no – it’s very tricky!”
Al-Attiyah stayed clear of trouble to set the fastest time on the opener and moved into a 4.3-second lead over Al-Rajhi, although the Saudi admitted that the car had stuttered a couple of times in the stage. Seaidan’s return to the Toyota fold was rewarded with the fourth fastest time.
After an 85.85km from Lusail, crews tackled two selective sections of 122.73km and 124.86km the following morning, with the motorcycles getting to grips with the longer section first.
Al-Attiyah started the day from 10th position on the road and quickly began to overtake his rivals to win stage two. The latest Toyota GR DKR Hilux never missed a beat and the Qatari was able to shadow Al-Rajhi to the finish of the second of the stages to extend his outright lead to 3min 52.6sec.
“It was a good run and we didn’t have any problems except for one flat tyre,” said Al-Attiyah. “For the second stage we didn’t really need to push because there were a lot of stones and we wanted to save everything for tomorrow. I am not surprised with the pace of Yazeed. Now we will try and do our best tomorrow.”
Al-Rajhi opened the road for much of the second 124.86km stage and his pace and performance was rewarded with the stage win and a comfortable second place in the rankings. Seaidan lost his way on several occasions in the third Toyota and held a distant third overall.
Al-Rajhi said: “It was a good day for us. First stage we were unlucky. We have a puncture after the start, after 10km, and I catch Yasir and I follow for around 70km with the dust and more dust. We lost together, me and Yasir, in one place because we took a different road and then we see Nasser and we followed him. But we lost some time. On the second stage we push and Michael did a great job. Qatar is very difficult navigation and we did it very well to win the stage. We are not too far away but we need to push a little bit tomorrow.”
Al-Rajhi had planned to challenge Al-Attiyah hard over the final 200.39km, but the weather began to deteriorate as the morning progressed. The motorcycle riders had the better of the conditions and rally officials decided to start the car stage shortly after PC1, around 38km into the original stage.
Competitors duly arrived for the restart but the visibility was appalling and the special was finally cancelled on safety grounds with the overall classification standing from Friday evening.
2022 Qatar International Baja – final positions:
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Mathieu Baumel (AND) Toyota GR DKR Hilux 2hr 21min 11.5sec
2. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Michael Orr (GBR) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 2hr 25min 04.1sec
3. Yasir Seaidan (SAU)/Laurent Lichtleuchter (FRA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 2hr 48min 41.3sec
4. Kris Meeke (AND)/François Cazalet (FRA) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3) 2hr 50min 40.6sec
5. Ahmed Al-Kuwari (QAT)/Manuel Lucchese (QAT) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3) 3hr 12min 05.9sec
6. Khalifa Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Max Delfino (FRA) Can-Am Maverick XRS (T4) 3hr 14min 01.7sec
7. Sadoon Al-Kuwari (QAT)/Nasser Al-Kuwari (QAT) Can-Am Maverick XRS T4) 3hr 18min 34.5sec
8. Rashid Al-Muhannadi (QAT)/Szymon Gospodarczyk (POL) Can-Am Maverick XRS (T3) 3hr 22min 48.3sec
9. Yasmeen Koloc (ARE)/Stéphane Duplé (FRA) Can-Am Maverick DV21 (T3) 3hr 29min 23.6sec
10. Adel Abdulla (QAT)/Hugo Magalhães (PRT) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3) 3hr 35min 48.8sec
For further information:
Jean-Marc Fortin (E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org), 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