Al Attiyah closes in on title with victory in Hungary
14 Aug 2017 - 1:39
Veszprem, Hungary: Overdrive Racing’s Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah moved one step closer to a third successive FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies title with a convincing start-to-finish victory in the Veszprém-based Hungarian Baja, round eight of the series.
The Qatari and French co-driver Matthieu Baumel clinched victory on the Prologue stage on Friday evening and that paved the way for a dominant performance in their Toyota Hilux that saw them reach the podium finish with a winning margin of 3min 38sec over former WRC star Mikko Hirvonen of Finland. Al Attiyah won four of the weekend’s five timed tests.
It was the fourth win for Al Attiyah in Hungary after previous successes in 2008, 2014 and 2015 and the sixth of the season in the FIA World Cup for Overdrive Racing after victories in Russia, Dubai, Qatar, Kazakhstan and Spain and a bonus victory for Christian Lavieille in China’s Taklimakan Rally.
“It was not an easy race at all. The conditions were difficult on Saturday and I did not want to take any risks,” said the Qatari.
“Mikko was always close behind and I could never relax, but the win puts me in a strong position now to retain the FIA World Cup title.”
Poland’s Aron Domzala and navigator Maciej Marton set the fastest time on the final stage – beating Al Attiyah by just one second - and delivered a solid display in the second of the Overdrive Racing Toyotas to finish in sixth position, despite losing around five minutes with two flat tyres on the third stage.
Overdrive Racing’s CEO Jean-Marc Fortin said: “It has been a very good weekend, perfect, with nothing happening to the cars at all. For Nasser, from the pre-rally test to the finish, it was a perfect weekend. We chose a good place to start the first stage after the Prologue. Opening the road today was not easy, but he managed. We were managing the eight tyres only as well. Mikko used his eight tyres yesterday, which was a mistake. So, this morning, we had fresh tyres and that made the difference.”
Al Attiyah made the perfect start and a time of 7min 33.2sec through the 11.41km Prologue stage on Friday afternoon gave the Qatari the choice of a favourable starting position for Saturday’s opening selective section and an overnight lead of 8.8 seconds over Czech driver Martin Prokop. Domzala slotted into fifth place, sandwiched between Marcin Lukaszewski and fellow Pole Jakub Przygonski.
Al Attiyah continued where he left off on Friday evening with the fastest time of 1hr 39min 19sec through the first of two runs in a 136.60km selective section on Saturday morning. It enabled the Qatari to extend his advantage over Mikko Hirvonen to 1min 14sec. Przygonski moved up to third and Domzala climbed a place to fourth. The slippery special featured numerous water splashes and muddy conditions after overnight heavy rain.
In drying conditions, Al Attiyah was 4min 13sec quicker on his second run through the stage than he had been in the morning and duly extended his advantage over Hirvonen to 1min 24sec at the overnight halt, despite admitting to driving with caution over the rutted tracks and through the muddy sections. Domzala dropped around five minutes to his closest rivals after collecting two punctures and returned to Veszprém in sixth overall, 2min 24sec off fifth place.
A shortened selective section of around 98 kilometres was repeated twice on Sunday. Al Attiyah recorded his fourth successive quickest time in the opener by stopping the clocks in 1hr 01min and that enabled him to extend his lead to 3min 11sec heading into the final stage. Domzala tied to the second with Zimbabwe’s Conrad Rautenbach and consolidated his hold on sixth overall.
There were no late dramas for either Al Attiyah or Domzala and the duo reached the finish in Veszprém in first and sixth overall to cap another successful weekend for Overdrive Racing in the FIA World Cup.