DOHA: Saudi Arabian driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi has rejoined Overdrive Racing and will drive a Toyota Hilux as part of a five-car team in next week’s Sealine Cross-Country Rally, round four of the 2014 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies, to be held in Qatar this week.
The Saudi won both the Baja Russia and Baja Italy with the Belgium-based team before a disappointing outing in the recent Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge with his own Hummer vehicle ended without the Riyadh driver and his German co-driver Timo Gottschalk adding to the driver’s 60-point championship tally.
In a bid to catch early season championship leader, Vladimir Vasilyev of Russia, the Saudi now teams up with Polish drivers Marek Dabrowski and Adam Malysz, Brazilian Reinaldo Varela and Kazakh driver Kanat Shagirov in the event which will take the five Overdrive cars and 32 rival teams through five gruelling selective sections in the Qatar desert from April 21 to 25.
Dabrowski and co-driver Jacek Czachor held second overall for long periods of the recent Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, before a crash dropped them to seventh. The Team Orlen crew, like fellow Poles Malysz and Rafal Marton – runners-up in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge - remain in championship contention, however.
Varela and fellow Brazilian navigator Gustavo Gugelmin drive the fourth car after finishing ninth in the UAE. Shagirov teams up with Overdrive for the first time under the Mobilex Racing Team banner and has fellow Kazakh co-driver Alexandr Moroz reading the road book.
“This is the second difficult desert event in the space of three weeks and one where we achieved the outright win with Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah in 2012,” Overdrive team director Jean-Marc Fortin said yesterday.
“Last year, two of our leading cars reached the finish in third and fourth overall.
“We have a good track record here,” Fortin added.
“The Sealine event lacks the difficult, soft dunes and the very high temperatures that we experienced at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, but the event in Qatar is equally as challenging in terms of the navigation and the varied terrain our drivers will cross and it is sure to be hot in mid-April,” Fortin said.
“We are delighted to have Yazeed back in harness in one of our cars and I am sure that he will be looking for the outright win or a podium at least,” he said.
Administrative checks and scrutineering will take place at the Losail race circuit to the north of Doha, today and tomorrow.
The first competitive 164.18km section takes teams on a route from Losail to the overnight halt at Sealine, south of Doha, on Monday (April 21).
Officials at the Qatar Motor & Motorcycle Federation (QMMF) have planned a 396.46km second section for Tuesday, April 22nd.
On Wednesday, Overdrive crews will tackle a daunting competitive section of 411.76km, while the penultimate desert section on Thursday, April 24th runs for 404.18km. The final stage on Friday, April 25th offers 362.97 competitive kilometres before the ceremonial finish at Sealine.
In a compact total Sealine Cross-Country Rally route of 1,912.95km, 1,739.55km will be competitive. THE PENINSULA