Qatar's Al-Attiyah tops powerful four-car team from Overdrive at Italian Baja

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PORDENONE (ITALY): Overdrive Racing has laid faith in four drivers and a four-car team to continue its superb run of success in this year’s FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies. 

Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah, Poland’s Marek Dabrowski, Frenchman Ronan Chabot and Al-Attiyah’s brother Khalifa will drive a quartet of Toyota Hiluxes at this weekend’s Italian Baja, round four of the prestigious off-road series. 

Al-Attiyah is in a rich vein of form and has a 36-point lead in the FIA World Cup standings after giving Overdrive Racing a pair of superb back-to-back victories in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge and Sealine Cross-Country Rally in Qatar in the spring. 

The Qatari is taking a break from his mid-season preparations to represent the State of Qatar in the skeet shooting discipline at the Rio Olympics in August and teams up with Frenchman Matthieu Baumel in Overdrive’s latest Toyota Hilux. 

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Partnered by Jacek Czachor, Dabrowski currently holds equal seventh position in the FIA World Cup standings in his Team Orlen-backed Toyota. The Polish duo were sixth at the last round in Qatar and Marek finished fourth in Italy last season, behind Al-Attiyah and Overdrive team-mates Reinaldo Varela and Vladimir Vasilyev.

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The French duo of Ronan Chabot and Gilles Pillot crew Overdrive’s third Toyota Hilux and join the team for the first time since the Dakar Rally, where they finished 22nd overall. The Frenchman has taken part in the world’s toughest off-road rally since 2003 and finished seventh overall in 2013. 

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Al-Attiyah’s brother Khalifa drives the fourth Toyota. The Qatari will be hoping for a change of fortune as well. His challenge for honours at the Sealine Cross-Country Rally ended prematurely after a high-speed crash and he and new co-driver Xavier Panseri of France will be hoping to keep the Toyota on the straight and narrow and record their first set of championship points this season. 

“We’ve made a superb start to the FIA World Cup season and now we start the series of shorter European Baja rounds of the championship,” said Overdrive Racing’s CEO Jean-Marc Fortin. “They are just as important as the longer rallies, where Nasser showed that he was the man to beat with the Toyota. He has a good lead over Yazeed Al-Rajhi in the standings, but will need to protect that with a good performance in Italy. 

“Marek has produced some consistent finishes this season and it’s great to see Ronan back in the team with Gilles and Nasser’s brother taking part in an event in Europe.”

Organised by the Fuoristrada Club 4x4 Pordenone, scrutineering and administration gets proceedings underway on Thursday afternoon (June 25) at the pavilion in Fiera Pordenone and this continues into Friday morning. The event has attracted over 100 entries, with the opening stage starting and finishing at Cordenons on Friday.

The second timed section is centred around Valasone on Saturday and the final action takes place between San Lorenzo and Ponte della Delizia on Sunday, prior to the ceremonial finish in Pordenone. 

FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies – positions after round 3:

1 Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT) 120 pts  
2 Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU) 84 pts 
3 Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS) 53 pts
4 Mikko Hirvonen (FIN) 52 pts
5 Maris Neiksans (LVA) 30 pts
6 Yuriy Sazonov (KAZ) 28 pts
7 Bryce Menzies (USA) 24 pts
7 Marek Dabrowski (POL) 24 pts
9 Aron Domzala (POL) 23 pts
10 Jutta Kleinschmidt (DEU) 20 pts