Doha: Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah might not be able to defend his FIA World Cup title, but the Qatari would definitely be keen to put up an impressive showing at the Rally of Morocco that acts as a vital pre-Dakar Rally shakedown for his entire Overdrive Racing team.
The penultimate round of the 2018 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies starts with a Prologue stage on (October 4, near Fes, and finishes on Tuesday, October 9 after five desert selective sections and 1,362 competitive kilometres in a route of 2,051km and Overdrive Racing fields nine Toyota Hiluxes.
Russian G-Energy driver Vladimir Vasilyev and navigator Konstantin Zhiltsov are still chasing glory in the FIA World Cup. Vasilyev, 49, arrives at the north-eastern Moroccan town of Fes trailing series leader Jakub Przygonski by 71 points in the Drivers’ Championship.
While the Pole is the strong favourite to win the title for the first time, 60 points are at stake for the winner in Morocco and a further 30 are on offer at the last round in Portugal later in the month, so the Baja Spain winner – who finished third in both Hungary and Poland during the summer – still has a mathematical chance of winning his second title. Overdrive Racing will also oversee the running of a trio of Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa Toyotas featuring the team’s latest innovations and revisions.
As for Nasser, a couple of mechanical failures cost him dearly in Qatar and Kazakhstan after he had won Baja Russia and the decision to miss the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge meant that his title bid was over long before he and French navigator Matthieu Baumel finished second at the non-championship Silk Way Rally in Russia.
South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers and Dutchman Bernhard Ten Brinke will also be hoping for an impressive showing.
An injury to co-driver Robert Howie sidelined De Villiers prematurely in Qatar, but the consistent South African has been working on the development of the Toyota Hilux behind the scenes and the goal of continuing a string of Dakar podium finishes will be boosted no end by a good result for him and new French navigator Alexandre Winocq in Morocco.
Ten Brinke teams up with Frenchman Xavier Panseri in the third of the Toyota Gazoo cars, the Dutchman keen to put in some competitive times before the Dakar in January. Poland’s Aron Domzala holds eighth in the FIA World Cup standings after a mixed season that included fourth places in Spain and Qatar. He and fellow countryman Maciej Marton crew the fifth car.
The experienced Dutchman Erik van Loon returns to the hot seat for the first time since finishing sixth in Spain with Wouter Rosegaar. But Van Loon also has a new co-driver for his Moroccan challenge. Harmen Scholtabers will co-drive the sixth of the Toyotas. Saudi Arabia’s Yasir Seaidan, Frenchman Ronan Chabot and Yuxiang Liang round off the truly international Toyota team line-up in Morocco.
Overdrive Racing’s CEO Jean-Marc Fortin said: “Morocco is one of the toughest events on the calendar and equally an important test for the team before the Dakar. Vladimir is still chasing success in the FIA World Cup, but we have a real emphasis on fine-tuning and testing and leaving nothing to chance before all the focus turns to the final preparations for Dakar.”