Big win for Nasser & Toyota GR DKR Hilux in the Qatar International Baja
Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and co-driver Mathieu Baumel clinched victory in the car category in their Toyota GR DKR Hilux, while Polish KTM rider Konrad Dabrowski stayed clear of late trouble to defend his motorcycle title at the end of a punishing Qatar International Baja on Saturday.
Al-Attiyah controlled proceedings through the demanding last stage to take the day’s win by 10min 18sec from Chinese rival Guoyu Zhang and that was sufficient for the Qatari to finish 16min 21.6sec ahead of Overdrive Racing team-mates, Denis Krotov and Konstantin Zhiltsov, in their Toyota Hilux. Zhang and his Spanish co-driver Oriol Mena rounded off the podium places in their Baic ORC BJ40,
Al-Attiyah said: “It was a good Baja. The first day I had a small margin and the second day I pushed a lot. I thank Jean-Marc (Fortin) from Overdrive Racing for bringing me a new car and thanks to Qatar Airways for flying this car over very swiftly so that I was able to compete here. I am very glad to win here again on my home race. I always want to compete in every international event in Qatar and it’s great to bounce back with a win after my big crash in Abu Dhabi.”
Runner-up Krotov added: “After 35km, I had to stop and change the tyres. After that we lost a little power and didn’t have a big speed. One turbo was not working. But the race was good and I enjoyed the stages.”
Competitors tackled 224.96km on the final day and the route was split into four sections of 33.73km, 28.51km, 43.23km and 113.20km by three non-competitive transfer zones.
Overdrive Racing’s Juan Cruz Yacopini and Daniel Oliveras moved up to fourth overall on the final stage in the third of four Toyotas.
The experienced Meshari Al-Thefiri began the day second in T3 behind his usual co-driver Nasser Al-Kuwari and the Kuwaiti delivered a solid stage performance to set the fastest time and sneak through to win the FIA T3 category for lightweight prototype machines on his first race with a new MCE-5 T3M and Oriol Vidal looking after the navigation. Al-Thefiri also finished fifth overall.
He said: “We managed to finish. It’s so difficult with the road book to know if you are out of the route. It is not easy. The car was very good. We caught Nasser (Al-Kuwari) about 20km from the start, so I managed my pace then and I knew what my advantage was. I am very happy that this is the first win for the MCE-5. Hard luck to Nasser.”
With Nasser Al-Kuwari and French co-driver François Cazalet dropping precious minutes on the stage with the lack of brakes and puncturs, that opened the door for the Qatari’s brother Abdulaziz to snatch second place in the category in his QMMF Rally Team Can-Am. On his debut in this type of motor sport, the former winner of the Qatar International Rally also finished in an excellent sixth in the general classification. Nasser came home in seventh and third in T3.
“From the first 20km, we had one flat tyre and we changed it,” said Nasser Al-Kuwari. “Then we catch Meshari and we had another flat tyre. We changed it. We catch him again and try to pass him and then we had a third one. Then we had no chance to win and we just tried to get the car to the finish. We also had brake issues. But I am happy with my performance.”
Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari said: “Very happy to finish second. I would love to have won T3 but it is not easy after the delay with the puncture on the first day. Unlucky for Nasser to come with the third puncture. I took it safely. I wanted to do all the mileage. I want to transfer to this kind of rallies. I prefer this type of rallies. You don’t have to drive every week.”
The French crew of Jeremie Warnia and Loic Minaudier managed to overhaul Brazil’s Cristiano de Sousa Batista and Portuguese co-driver Fausto Moto to secure a narrow victory in the FIA T4 category in their Polaris RXR 1000 R. They finished eighth overall and beat their Can-Am rivals by 2min 10sec on the final day to secure a winning margin of just 30.3 seconds.
Seventeen minutes of time penalties for missing route waypoints had pushed Pau Navarro down the T4 rankings after the third stage in his FN Speed Team Can-Am. He climbed back to third on the final day.
Saudi Arabia’s Khalid Al-Feraihi and French co-driver Sébastien Delaunay boosted their FIA Middle East Baja Cup title aspirations with valuable points for finishing 11th overall in their Nissan Patrol behind the 10th-placed Ronan Chabot in his Overdrive Toyota.
Krzysztof Holowczyc (Mini JCR Rally Plus) and Ahmed Al-Shegawi (Can-Am) retired on Friday after their mechanical issues.
Dabrowski retains motorcycle title
Konrad Dabrowski retained his motorcycle title in Qatar with a polished performance that saw his win every stage on his KTM. The Pole won Saturday’s last stage by 6min 49sec to record a winning margin over Great Britain’s Robert Wallace of 31min 04.8sec. He also claimed the honours of finishing as the first FIM Junior.
Dabrowski said: “Qatar is very lucky for us. A second win here in a row. I like to come here because it is great experience and I can improve my navigation and my riding. I was sick today on the stage after spending a night in the air conditioning. It was so difficult just to ride the bike on the second part of the stage. I am very tired but happy to win this race. I was super tired when I finished but it’s a great feeling to win.”
With Martin Chalmers dropped out of contention on the final morning, the battle for the final place on the podium swung in favour of the Dutch female racer Mirjam Pol. The KTM rider climbed from eighth to third to finish as the top Women. She edged out Andrew Houlihan for the last podium place by just 66.4 seconds, although the Australian had the consolation of winning the Veterans’ class and finishing a fine fourth.
A delighted Pol said: “When you start eighth overall and you finish third it is a big surprise. I had all the route waypoints and when I arrived I only saw two lines and that’s when I realised I had achieved a very good result.”
Emirati Mohammed Al-Ramani climbed to fifth at the expense of sixth-place Canadian Jonathan Finn. Mohammed Al-Balooshi was the championship leader after the opening round in Saudi Arabia and the Emirati reached the finish in eighth.
Several riders were handed time back overnight by FIM officials for delays on Friday helping at the scene of other competitors’ accidents. Waving the Irish flag was Oran O’Kelly who received a credit of 53 minutes and Alex McInnes and Simon Marcic were also handed time back. McInnes went on to finish 10th overall after setting the second quickest time behind Dabrowski on the final stage. Marcic came home in third place on the day and finished 14th.
Emirati Sultan Al-Balooshi did not restart after his problems on Friday. Arnoud Dom was the unofficial winner of the quad category after Haitham Al-Tuwaijri and Abdulaziz Al-Ahli failed to finish. Mansoor Al-Suwaidi finished second.
2023 Qatar International Baja – Positions after stage 4 (unofficial @ 15.45hrs):
FIA – Cars (Top 16 only)
- Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Mathieu Baumel (AND) Toyota GR DKR Hilux 4hr 51min 49.7sec*
- Denis Krotov (KGZ)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (ISR) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 5hr 08min 11.3sec*
- Guoyu Zhang (CHN)/Oriol Mena (ESP) Baic ORC BJ40 5hr 11min 00.6sec*
- Juan Cruz Yacopini (ARG)/Daniel Oliveras (ESP) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 5hr 23min 50.9sec*
- Meshari Al-Thefiri (KWT)/Oriol Vidal (ESP) MCE-5 T3M (T3) 5hr 30min 32.4sec*
- Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari (QAT)/Alexei Kuzmich (ARE) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3) 5hr 38min 05.3sec+
- Nasser Al-Kuwari (QAT)/François Cazalet (FRA) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3) 5hr 42min 23.3sec+
- Jeremie Warnia (FRA)/Loic Minaudier (FRA) Polaris RZR 1000 R (T4) 5hr 45min 51.5sec*
- Cristiano de Sousa Batista (BRA)/Fausto Mota (PRT) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo (T4) 5hr 46min 21.8sec*
- Ronan Chabot (FRA)/Gilles Pillot (FRA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 5hr 47min 36.5sec*
- Khalid Al-Feraihi (SAU)/Sébastien Delaunay (FRA) Nissan Pick-Up 5hr 56min 24.7sec+
- Otavio Sousa (BRA)/João Ferreira (PRT) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3) 5hr 59min 07.7sec*
- Fernando Alvarez (ESP)/Xavier Panseri (FRA) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3) 5hr 59min 39.7sec*
- Pau Navarro (ESP)/Gonçalo Reis (PRT) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo (T4) 6hr 02min 01.5sec*
- Ahmed Al-Kuwari (QAT)/Manuel Luchesse (QAT) Yamaha YXZ 1000 R (T4) 6hr 07min 26.6sec+
- Adel Abdulla (QAT)/Marc Serra (QAT) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3) 6hr 11min 45.9sec+