SZCZECIN (POLAND): Overdrive Racing’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah continues to rewrite the history books after confirming a third FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies drivers’ title by winning this weekend’s Columna Medica Baja Poland, round seven of the nine-event series, at Szczecin in northwestern Poland.
Driving a Toyota Hilux, Al-Attiyah edged into a useful lead early on and then came under fierce pressure from the experienced local driver Krzysztof Holowczyc when he slowed slightly over the closing stages to eventually record a fifth successive victory with his Overdrive Racing team by the margin of 1min 21sec.
Partnered by French navigator Matthieu Baumel, Al-Attiyah adds the 2016 FIA World Cup title to the pair he earned in 2008 and 2015 and gives Overdrive Racing and Toyota a first ever FIA World Cup Drivers’ Championship title.
The Polish duo of Marek Dabrowski and Jacek Czachor delivered a measured performance on their return to action in the Team Orlen Toyota Hilux and shadowed Al-Attiyah and Holowczyc to the finish in third position.
Dane Jes Munk and Polish co-driver Rafal Marton reached the finish in seventh position in a third car and Al-Attiyah’s brother Khalifa teamed up with Belgian navigator Stéphane Prevot with backing from the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF) to finish 10th.
Overdrive Racing also supplied a car for the Polish duo of Marcin Maluszyński and Julita Maluszyńska. They reached the finish in Szcecin in ninth place.
Frenchman Ronan Chabot and his navigator Gilles Pillot were placed just outside the top 10 until Chabot put his Toyota Hilux on its side in the fifth stage and were forced to retire.
“This is a very nice feeling to have two cars on the podium and to take our first major FIA title here,” said a delightedOverdrive Racing’s CEO Jean-Marc Fortin. “This month is the 10th anniversary since we started Overdrive Racing with our first event being the Dakar in 2007. Some of the mechanics have been here since the start, since the creation of the company, and this is a superb result for all of us.
“We knew it would not be easy here. The Polish drivers know the stages well and they know where to cut and where to put the wheels. It is always like this. But Nasser was superb as usual and Marek claimed third place. That is a great result for him to be the best of the ‘unbeatable’ drivers.
“Then we have Jes and Khalifa in seventh and 10th and Michal in ninth, so five Overdrive cars inside the top 10. Disappointing obviously that we withdrew Ronan Chabot’s car after he put it on its side this morning, but this has been a superb weekend nonetheless and we can certainly enjoy this result and celebrate this evening.”
Al-Attiyah laid down the gauntlet with the quickest time through the opening 7.08km super special stage in the militarised area, near Szececin, and edged into a lead of 12 seconds over local hero Holowczyc. Dabrowski, Chabot, Maluszyński, Khalifa Al-Attiyah and Muck were fourth, 14th, 17th, 19th and 23rd.
Saturday’s action comprises two selective sections of 176.33km apiece in the militarised area around Drawsko Pomorskie. Al-Attiyah was not to be denied through the first pass here either and the Qatari beat Dabrowski by 28 seconds to extend his overall advantage to 48 seconds and give Overdrive Racing a 1-2 placing at the midday break.
Munk and Chabot were ninth and 10th fastest and held similar positions in the overall standings. Maluszyński and Khalifa Al-Attiyah were classified in 15th and 16th overall.
Al-Attiyah ceded the third stage win to Holowczyc by just 12 seconds, but the Qatari reached the overnight halt with an advantage over the Pole of 2min 18sec. Dabrowski maintained a podium position in third and Overdrive team-mates, Munk, Chabot, Khalifa Al-Attiyah and Maluszyński, were 10th, 12th, 14th and 15th overall.
Sunday’s action consists of two repeat runs through a pair of shorter and modified stages of 30.66km and 17.68km at Dobra and Lubieszyhn. Holowczyc reduced Al-Attiyah’s outright lead by six seconds through the opener, as Dabrowski and Munk held third and ninth overall and Chabot incurred a stage maximum penalty and slipped to 26th overall after putting his Toyota on its side. Maluszyński overhauled Khalifa Al-Attiyah to snatch 12th.
Holowczyc maintained the pressure on Al-Attiyah through the fifth stage and the fourth quickest time for the Qatari did him no favours at all, although he admitted to taking it easy to avoid any risks. Al-Attiyah’s lead was reduced to just 1min 30sec heading into the repeat runs through the two stages. The other four Overdrive Toyotas held third, ninth, 11thand 12th overall.
Dobra had deteriorated quite markedly for the second pass and Al-Attiyah posted a cautious time of 24min 32sec, but it was sufficient for the Qatari to extend his advantage over Holowczyc to 1min 34sec heading to the final Lubieszyhn stage. Dabrowski, Munk, Maluszyński and Khalifa Al-Attiyah held third, eighth, 10th and 11th overall.
Al-Attiyah survived the final nervy few kilometres of the shortened stage to record the fourth quickest time of 6min 29sec to secure the victory in Poland and give himself and the team an unassailable lead in the FIA World Cup Drivers’ Championship standings with two rallies to go in Morocco and Portugal in October.