Jul 24, 2017
Overdrive Racing’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Matthieu Baumel delivered a sensational final stage to seal a dramatic victory in Spain’s Baja Aragón, round seven of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies, in Teruel on Sunday.
Trailing overnight leader Mikko Hirvonen at the start of the stage by 11 seconds, Al-Attiyah threw caution to the wind to win the final stage by 2min 25sec and seal a second successive victory for Overdrive Racing and Toyota on Europe’s leading Baja event. The result also strengthened the Qatar’s grip on the FIA World Cup in a virtual carbon copy repeat of the stage performance he put in last year to win the event for a second time.
Spain’s Joan ‘Nani’ Roma has won this event five times in the past on four wheels and he and co-driver Alex Haro brought the Monster Energy-backed Overdrive Toyota Hilux to the finish in a solid fourth overall.
South African Leeroy Poulter and Germany’s Dirk von Zitzewitz tackled the event for the first time together in a Toyota GAZOO Racing South Africa car. Poulter delivered an impressive performance to reach Teruel in fifth position after overhauling Al-Attiyah’s closest title rival Jakub Przygonski on the final stage.
A harsh time penalty ruined Aron Domzala’s chance of finishing inside the top six but the Pole and navigator Maciej Marton recovered strongly to reach the finish in 12th position, Aron climbing eight places on the final selective section.
Spanish privateer Luis Recuenco teamed up with navigator Manuel Navarro to drive a Toyota Hilux supplied by Overdrive Racing. He held 22nd overall after the second stage, 18th after SS3 but failed to reach the finish in Teruel after hitting a rock and losing a wheel on the last stage.
Overdrive Racing’s CEO Jean-Marc Fortin said: “This was another remarkable stage performance by Nasser and Matthieu to seal another memorable win for Overdrive Racing against a very strong field. The result strengthens our championship challenge as well and is a second success for Toyota now on this rally.
“The rest of the team also delivered superb performances. ‘Nani’ and Leeroy were fourth and fifth and Aron would have been right up there without the time penalty for the tyre issue.”
The Overdrive Racing quartet began strongly on the 9.3km Prologue stage that took place on the outskirts of Teruel on Friday evening. Roma pipped Al-Attiyah to the quickest time by just 0.3 seconds, as Poulter and Domzala settled into fourth and ninth positions.
The meat of the action began on Saturday morning with a selective section of 216.8km. Roma opted to follow Al-Attiyah into the stage, with Domzala third and Poulter in eighth on the road. Argentina’s Orlando Terranova snatched the overall lead with the fastest stage time of 2hrs 42min 08.1sec, as Al-Attiyah and Roma were third and fourth quickest and held similar positions in the overall standings. The Qatari was a mere 22.6 seconds adrift of the leader. Domzala and Poulter were sixth and seventh overall.
The second stage of the day ran for 133.78km in the punishing heat of an Aragón summer afternoon between Celadas and Teruel. Mikko Hirvonen beat Al-Attiyah by just five seconds to claim the quickest time and moved into an overnight lead of just 10.2 seconds over the Qatari, with Terranova a further 10.1 seconds behind in third and Roma a distant fourth. Poulter held sixth position, but Domzala’s fourth fastest time also came with a time penalty of 31 minutes that pushed the Pole down to 20th overall.
“It was a very harsh penalty,” insisted Jean-Marc Fortin. “I am devastated by it. Aron had a punctured tyre and the rubber was on fire. He couldn’t put out the fire, so he left the wheel there. Then, due to a missing spare wheel, he was given this extremely unfair penalty.”
The fourth and final section took place on Sunday morning and ran for 184.05km between Barrachina and Caude before the ceremonial finish in Teruel. Hirvonen carded the target time of 2hrs 14min 34sec, but he was beaten by 52 seconds by Terranova who moved 31 seconds in front of the Finn in the overall standings.
All eyes were on Al-Attiyah’s stage time and the Qatari didn’t disappoint. He crossed the finish line in 2hrs 11min 17sec to storm to the top of the leader board and claim a second successive victory in Spain for Overdrive Racing and Toyota.
Roma was fourth quickest to consolidate fourth place and Poulter set the third fastest time to finish his first Baja in Spain in fifth overall after he passed Jakub Przygonski on the final timed section. Domzala finished the last stage just three seconds behind Hirvonen, but the time penalty had done the damage for the Pole on Saturday evening.
2017 Baja Spain Aragón – positions after SS4 (unofficial @ 15.30hrs):
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 6hrs 40min 20sec
2. Orlando Terranova (ARG)/Paulo Fiuza (PRT) Mini All4 Racing 6hrs 42min 55sec
3. Mikko Hirvonen (FIN)/Andreas Schulz (DEU) Mini All4 Racing 6hrs 43min 26sec
4. Joan Roma (ESP)/Alex Haro (ESP) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 6hrs 48min 43sec
5. Leeroy Poulter (ZAF)/Dirk von Zitzewitz (DEU) Toyota GAZOO Racing Hilux 6hrs 52min 05sec
6. Jakub Przygonski (POL)/Xavier Panseri (FRA) Mini John Cooper Works Rally 6hrs 57min 25sec
12. Aron Domzala (POL)/Maciej Marton (POL) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 7hrs 21min 12sec
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