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·         Second and third places for Brazilian Varela and Russian       Vasilyev

·         Poland’s Marek Dabrowski finishes fourth in Team Orlen Toyota


PORDENONE (ITALY): Overdrive Racing Toyota Hiluxes finished second, third and fourth overall in the 22nd Italian Baja, round five of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies, which took place over five special stages and finished at Pordenone in north-eastern Italy on Sunday afternoon.


The Brazilian duo of Reinaldo Varela and Gustavo Gugelmin won one stage and led the way for the Belgium-based team with second overall, a mere 1min 24sec behind race winner Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah of Qatar. The result sees the Brazilian climb into third place in the FIA World Cup standings. 


Russian driver Vladimir Vasilyev and navigator Konstantin Zhiltsov joined Overdrive Racing for the first time for the Italian event and maintained their lead in the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies with a solid third overall and the final place on the podium. 


The Polish duo of Marek Dabrowski and Jacek Czachor reached the finish in fourth overall in their Team Orlen Toyota Hilux. 


Russian Aleksandr Zheludov and Anton Nikolaev ran an Overdrive Toyota Hilux under the Protech Motorsport banner and held third at the start of the final stage before suffering technical issues over the closing kilometres. 


“Obviously it is nice to get three cars to the finish inside the top four, but it would have been nice to have taken the win,” said Overdrive Racing’s team director Jean-Marc Fortin. “Nasser did a good second stage on Saturday and that enabled him to manage his race. We are still in a good position for the championship and that is the important thing, but the FIA regulations are still against us in performance terms and still favour the diesel engines. This is something I hope will change soon.


“Vladimir enjoyed his first rally with us. It was more of a learning event for him after we made a good test two weeks ago. We had no problems with any of the cars and our team worked well together.”


Al-Attiyah set the quickest time of 8min 02.2sec in the opening 11.8km ‘Memorial ‘Caco’ Azzaretti’ super special stage on Friday evening. Overdrive’s Dabrowski was second and Zheludov posted the fourth quickest time in the Overdrive-supplied car run by Protech Motorsport. Vasilyev settled into sixth place and Varela was ninth.


Two runs through a selective section of 84.52km between San Lorenzo and Codroipo were on the agenda for Saturday and Varela was in fine form to record the quickest time of 1hr 00.3sec to snatch the outright lead by 17 seconds on the first of the longer stages. 


It was a superb stage for Overdrive Racing: Vasilyev was second quickest, Zheludov was third and Dabrowski finished fifth. It meant that Toyotas filled first, second, third and fourth places after two stages. 


Al-Attiyah stormed back into contention on the repeat run of the morning’s stage and the Qatari beat Varela by 1min 24sec to take an overall lead of 45 seconds over the Brazilian. The third fastest time was sufficient for Zheludov to reach the overnight halt in the final podium position. Vasilyev and Dabrowski held fourth and fifth overall, courtesy of similar finishing positions on the third stage. 


Al-Attiyah was again quickest on Sunday morning’s 84.68km selective section and the Qatari extended his outright lead to 1min 09sec over Varela, who set the second quickest time. Vasilyev and Zheludov remained handily-placed in third and fourth and Dabrowski retained fifth with the sixth quickest time heading to the repeat run through the special. 


Al-Attiyah duly confirmed victory by the margin of 1min 24sec with the quickest time in the final stage, but Varela held on to claim the runner-up spot and Vasilyev set the third fastest time to round off the podium places and maintain his FIA World Cup lead.


2015 Italian Baja – final positions:

1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Mini All4 Racing           3hr 59min 44sec

2. Reinaldo Varela (BRA)/Gustavo Gugelmin (BRA) Overdrive Toyota Hilux            4hr 01min 08sec

3. Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS) Overdrive Toyota Hilux        4hr 03min 34sec 

4. Marek Dabrowski (POL)/Jacek Czachor (POL) Overdrive Toyota Hilux                 4hr 06min 47sec

5. Miroslav Zapletal (CZE)/Tomas Ourednicek (CZE) H3 Evo 7                                   4hr 10min 21sec

6. Benidiktas Vanagas (LTU)/Sebastien Rozwadowski (POL) Toyota Hilux              4hr 15min 03sec