(MENAFN- The Peninsula)
Zagora: Overdrive Racing's Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah stormed into the outright lead in the Drivers' Championship standings of the 2021 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies with a convincing victory in the Rally of Morocco.
Overdrive Racing-run Toyotas completely locked out all the podium places and Ronan Chabot's fourth Hilux made it an emphatic 1-2-3-4 finish for the Belgian team on one of the world's most demanding cross-country rallies.
Driving the older specification Toyota Gazoo Racing Hilux, the Qatari teamed up with French navigator Matthieu Baumel to seal his sixth personal success on Africa's premier off-road rally by the margin of 15min 58sec.
Saudi Arabia's Yazeed Al Rajhi and Ulster co-driver Michael Orr won one stage and pushed the triple Dakar Rally winner hard. Punctures cost the Saudi some time but he also stayed well in contention for the FIA World Cup title with a comfortable second position.
Dutchman Erik van Loon and French co-driver Sebastien Delaunay were not eligible to score points and be classified in the official results in Morocco on this occasion. The crew used Toyota's latest Hilux T1+ Ultimate in a course opening capacity and several competitive stage times would have put them in third place at the finish in Zagora.
Argentina's Lucio Alvarez also remains firmly in FIA World Cup title contention after bringing his Overdrive Racing Toyota home in third place with Spanish co-driver Armand Monleón. The winner of Rally Kazakhstan trails Al Attiyah and Al Rajhi in the race for the title and moves clear of Sweden's Matthias Ekström.
The French crew of Ronan Chabot and Gilles Pillot crewed the fourth Overdrive Racing Toyota and held fourth place for much of the rally. They slipped to fifth on the penultimate day and then climbed back to fourth position to the finish.
Overdrive Racing began strongly and Al Attiyah beat Al Rajhi by one second to win the 11.11km Qualifying Stage.
On Saturday, at the timed desert section, Al Attiyah continued his winning ways, despite starting from 10th on the road, and the Qatari increased his advantage over Al Rajhi to 4min 17sec, with Chabot running well to snatch third place and give Overdrive Racing a 1-2-3 in the general classification.
“We start 10th position, but it was not a good position because there was a lot of dust. But I was happy to win the stage,” said Al Attiyah.“I overtook six cars but it was not easy in the dust.”
The second of the desert stages again looped through the deserts around Zagora. Al Attiyah won the special by 6min 01sec and increased his lead over Al Rajhi to 10min 18sec, although punctures blighted the Saudi's progress.
On day three of desert action, Al Attiyah again topped the times and extended his lead over Al Rajhi to 13 minutes. The Saudi completed the stage in third, 2min 15sec behind Jakub Przygonski.
Stage four ran for 367.43km and Al Rajhi managed to stop the Al Attiyah juggernaut and a stage win enabled the Saudi to reduce the Qatari's outright lead to 11min 21sec.
The fifth desert loop around Zagora was shorter than the previous days, but there were no late dramas for Al Attiyah and a stage win enabled the Qatari to clinch a sixth win in Morocco. He beat Al Rajhi on the stage by 4min 37sec.
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