Al Attiyah aims to extend World Cup lead in Spain
18 Jul 2017 - 0:32
Teruel, Spain: Overdrive Racing’s and Toyota GAZOO Racing South Africa’s decision to miss the ongoing Silk Way Rally has enabled the two teams to join forces to mount a powerful challenge for honours in this weekend’s Baja Spain Aragón - round seven of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies.
The team has entered four Toyota Hiluxes in the most popular of all the European Bajas, as Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah aims to extend his championship lead and Spain’s Joan ‘Nani’ Roma, South African Leeroy Poulter and Poland’s Aron Domzala target podium finishes and vital hours behind the wheel of the South African-built V8 Toyotas.
A date clash forced Al Attiyah to miss the last round of the series in Italy, but the Qatari has claimed three victories so far this season in Dubai, Qatar and Kazakhstan and heads to the baking heat of Teruel in Spain’s Aragón Province keen to defend his 36-point lead in the Drivers’ Championship.
He teams up with usual French navigator Matthieu Baumel.
Last year, Al Attiyah delivered a sensational last stage performance to earn Toyota and Overdrive Racing a first ever victory at this event. He also won this Baja with Swedish female navigator Tina Thorner back in 2008.
Leeroy Poulter enjoyed an impressive showing in Qatar back in April and the demanding tracks and punishing heat of Baja Spain will give the South African even more experience on which to build his Dakar challenge next January. Germany’s Dirk von Zitzewitz will co-drive the Toyota GAZOO Racing South Africa car.
Joan ‘Nani’ Roma was Overdrive Racing’s highest-placed finisher in this year’s Dakar in fourth position and the two-time Dakar champion and five-time winner of Baja Spain in a car returns to action in an Overdrive Toyota Hilux with navigator Alex Haro.
Roma is one of the most experienced of the off-road drivers racing at the top level of the sport and is a firm favourite amongst the local crowds on an event that he holds close to his heart. He was victorious here in 2005, 2009 and 2013, 2014 and 2015 on four wheels after previous success as a factory enduro rider.
Poland’s Aron Domzala suffered engine issues at the last round of the series in Italy and was unable to improve upon his sixth position in the championship standings. He continues to work alongside fellow countryman Maciej Marton in the fourth of the Toyota Hiluxes entered in Spain.
Overdrive Racing’s CEO Jean-Marc Fortin said: “This is an important event for us for several reasons. It’s a chance for Nani and Leeroy to gain more seat time this season and for Nani to continue his remarkable record of success on his home event.
But it is also an important event for Nasser and Aron in terms of the championship. There is always a strong entry, temperatures are often very high and the tracks and the dust can be tricky. It’s important that we continue our winning momentum to take into the latter part of the year.”
After technical scrutineering and administration checks on Thursday (July 20) and Friday morning, the competitive action gets underway with a timed 9.6km super special stage from 18.25hrs on Friday evening.
The bulk of the action takes place on revised stages on Saturday (July 22) and Sunday (July 23). There are two selective sections of 216.8km (08.48hrs – first car) and 139.2km (14.00hrs – first car) on Saturday and one of 178.7m from 11.20hrs on Sunday before the podium finishing ceremony in Teruel at 15.30hrs on Sunday.
Saturday’s route will not be repeated on Sunday on this occasion either and the entire route is centred on the Teruel area in the regions of Jiloca, Cuencas Mineras and Comarca de Teruel.