Vasilyev records first victory for Overdrive racing at Spain’s Baja
· Domzala, Van Loon and Calleja finish fourth, sixth and 14th overall
· Spaniard Xavier Pons misses out on potential podium finish on final stage
Russian driver Vladimir Vasilyev and co-driver Konstantin Zhiltsov celebrated their first event with Overdrive Racing by snatching an impressive outright victory in Baja Aragón Teruel 2018, the seventh round of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies, in Spain on Sunday.
The 48-year-old 2014 FIA World Cup winner got to grips with the powerful Toyota Hilux from the start and reached the finish in the heat of Teruel 52 seconds in front of FIA World Cup leader Jakub Przygonski. The result also moved the Russian into second place in the Drivers’ Championship standings at the expense of third-placed Martin Prokop.
The Polish duo of Aron Domzala and Maciej Marton finished fourth in the second of the five Overdrive Toyotas.
Erik van Loon and Wouter Rosegaar gained momentum as the event progressed and the sixth fastest time on the final stage enabled the Dutch crew to bring their Toyota to the finish in a similar position in the overall rankings.
The Spanish crew of Xavier ‘Xevi’ Pons and Diego San Juan were inside the top five for much of the event and started the final day in third place, but the former WRC star hit trouble on the last stage and wheel bearing issues cost him time before he lost a wheel near the end of the stage and retired.
Spanish television presenter and adventurer Jesús Calleja teamed up with Jaume Aregall to drive the fifth of the Toyotas and delivered an impressive performance. He was 16th in the final stage and reached the finish in 14th overall.
Overdrive Racing’s CEO Jean-Marc Fortin said: “It was a tough and demanding rally. Vladimir did a great job to take the win. It was a case today of not risking too much and surviving the stage and also trying to get a good result. There was a big storm and it was muddy and the conditions were not easy. But he managed to take the win.
“Xavier was a big disappointment for us. He was third overnight. He had a wheel bearing issue at the beginning of the stage and was slow. After that he lost the wheel completely near the end of the stage.
“Aron finished fourth, but there were still some mistakes in there. He has the speed and set some very fast times and was leading the stage yesterday before making a mistake. We will work with him to try and correct those in the future.
“Erik has been away from driving for a time and he started slowly. The poor Prologue did not help because that is always affecting the starting position and that is important on an event like this one. He was back in the game today after 300km yesterday. We will go to Morocco with him for more testing to get ready for the Dakar.
“Jesus Calleja made us laugh all weekend. He promised to keep the car on all four wheels and bring us a car to the finish with no damage. He kept his word in a fantastic way. It’s the first time he has raced in a good car and I saw at the test that he had skill.”
The timed super special stage at Alfambra was shortened slightly to 12.81km on Friday evening. Czech driver Martin Prokop set the fastest time of 9min 17sec to move into a two-second outright lead over Overdrive Racing’s latest recruit Xavier Pons.
The Spaniard’s Toyota team-mates, Domzala, Vasilyev and Van Loon settled into fourth, sixth and 13th overall. Adventurer and team rookie Calleja carded a stage time of 11min 40sec and that put the Spaniard in 33rd overall.
The longest timed section of the event was the revised 215.62km test between Alfambra and Cella on Saturday morning. Prokop was pipped to the fastest time by Vasilyev who snatched the outright lead by the margin of 1min 29sec. Pons was third quickest and third overall, 3min 25sec behind his leading team-mate. Domzala was fifth and held fifth in the standings. Van Loon and Calleja were classified in 12th and 16th.
The second of Saturday’s stages ran for 147.30km between Villarquemado and Teruel. Przygonski recorded the fastest time of 1hr 52mn 39sec to move into fourth overall, as Prokop snatched the lead from Vasilyev by 1min 01sec and Pons finished the day in third overall on his Overdrive Racing debut.
Domzala held sixth overall, Van Loon climbed to eighth and Calleja was 16th heading into the overnight halt and preparations for the start of the last selective section of 127.45km between Barrachina and Alfambra on Sunday.
Despite a violent storm and muddy conditions, the third quickest time enabled Vasilyev to snatch a 52-second victory away from stage winner Przygonski. Domzala confirmed fourth with the third fastest time and the sixth quickest time enabled Van Loon to finish sixth. Calleja reached Teruel in 14th, but Pons lost out on a potential podium finish after losing a wheel near the finish.
The FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies resumes in Hungary on August 10-12.
2018 Baja Aragón Teruel – final results
1. Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS) Toyota Hilux 6hrs 37min 50sec
2. Jakub Przygonski (POL)/Tom Colsoul (BEL) MINI John Cooper Works Rally 6hrs 38min 42sec
3. Martin Prokop (CZE)/Jan Tománek (CZE) Ford Raptor RS Cross-Country 6hrs 39min 12sec
4. Aron Domzala (POL)/Maciej Marton (POL) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 6hrs 47min 02sec
5. Ricardo Pórem (PRT)/Nuno Rodrigues Silva (PRT) Ford Ranger 6hrs 50min 06sec
6. Erik van Loon (NLD)/Wouter Rosegaar (NLD) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 7hrs 04min 27sec
14. Jesús González Calleja (ESP)/Jaume Aregall (ESP) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 7hrs 27min 47sec
Xavier Pons (ESP)/Diego San Juan (ESP) Toyota Hilux Overdrive RETIRED
FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies – standings after round 7 (unofficial):
1. Jakub Przygonski (POL) 237pts
2. Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS) 185pts
3. Martin Prokop (CZE) 174pts
4. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU) 60pts
5. Yasir Seaidan (SAU) 58pts, etc