Overdrive Racing kick-starts a hectic two weeks of global motor sport activity when it fields five cars in Baja Aragón Teruel 2018, the seventh round of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies, next weekend.
The Belgian car preparations company will also be running cars in the Silk Way Rally in Russia next week but the team’s focus switches to the baking heat of central Spain and the challenges that await on the three-day Spanish round of the FIA World Cup that the team has won for the last two years with Qatari Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah.
Russian driver Vladimir Vasilyev has switched allegiance and will drive a Toyota Hilux with Overdrive Racing for the first time in Spain. The 48-year-old 2014 FIA World Cup winner currently holds third position in the Drivers’ Championship standings behind Poland’s Jakub Przygonski and Czech Martin Prokop and realises the importance of a podium finish if he is to close in on his rivals with five rounds still to run. Vasilyev, who currently trails the leader by 61 points after six rounds, will be partnered by his usual navigator Konstantin Zhiltsov.
Aron Domzala has endured mixed fortunes this season on select rounds of the FIA World Cup and the talented young Pole teams up with Maciej Marton to drive the second of the Toyota Hiluxes. Domzala finished 12th in Spain last season and his best result of the season thus far was fourth place in Qatar back in April.
Erik van Loon returns to cross-country action for the first time since the Qatar Cross-Country Rally where he finished ninth. The Dutchman and fellow countryman Wouter Rosegaar survived two gentle rolls in Qatar but set some competitive stage times on the other three selective sections to finish ninth overall. They will be targeting the podium on this occasion.
Former WRC driver Xavier ‘Xevi’ Pons has tackled select rounds of the FIA World Cup and the Dakar Rally in recent seasons and the Spaniard joins Overdrive Racing for the first time to drive the fourth Toyota Hilux. He will be partnered in Teruel by fellow Spaniard Diego San Juan.
Pons’s pace is undeniable on select special stages and the 38-year-old Catalan will be aiming to repeat the five fourth-placed finished he earned at the WRC rounds in Spain in 2005 and in Sardinia, Turkey, Australia and New Zealand the following year.
A fifth Toyota Proto will be driven by the Spanish television personality, mountaineer and adventurer Jesús González Calleja. The rookie driver will be partnered by Jaume Aregall.
Born in Fresno de la Vega, the 53-year-old climbed Mount Everest in 2005 and completed the Seven Summits (the highest mountains on each continent) ascents between 2006 and 2008. A renowned pilot, he also presents and stars in the programmes Calleja of Cautro and Volando Voy and Energy television channels.
Calleja has tackled the Dakar Rally in the past and also select cross-country rallies in T2 and club level T1. The progression to a factory-specification T1 car is an impressive step-up for the Spaniard.
Overdrive Racing’s CEO Jean-Marc Fortin said: “Baja Spain is the strongest of the shorter rounds of the FIA World Cup in terms of the strength of the entry and it is always a very demanding rally with tricky stages and very high summer temperatures. I am delighted to welcome Vladimir and Konstantin to the team and also Xevi and Jesús and their teams.
“We have a strong driver line-up and will be pushing hard for the podium and also trying to support Vladimir in his challenge for the FIA World Cup title this year.”
After technical scrutineering and administration checks on Thursday (July 19) and Friday morning (July 20), the competitive action gets underway with a timed 13.46km super special stage from 18.21hrs on Friday evening.
The bulk of the 521.42km of action takes place on revised stages on Saturday (July 21) and Sunday (July 22). There are two selective sections of 227.51km (08.03hrs – first car) and 154.85km (13.31hrs – first car) on Saturday and one of 125.60km from 11.25hrs on Sunday before the podium ceremony in Teruel on Sunday afternoon.
FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies – standings after round 6:
1. Jakub Przygonski (POL) 216pts
2. Martin Prokop (CZE) 158pts
3. Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS) 155pts
4. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU) 60pts
5. Yasir Seaidan (SAU) 58pts
6. José Luis Pena Campo (ESP) 45pts
7. Ahmed Al-Shegawi (SAU) 40pts
8. Claude Fournier (FRA) 31pts
9. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT) 30pts
10. Aron Domzala (POL) 24pts
10. Cyril Despres (FRA) 24pts, etc
Story and image: Rally-Raid Network