Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah began the defence of his FIA World Cup title in convincing style with a start-to-finish maiden victory in Baja Russia Northern Forest Rally, the opening round of the 2018 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rally Championship.
The Qatari and French navigator Matthieu Baumel won four of the five stages in their Overdrive Racing Toyota Hilux, running under the Tamim Al-Majid Team banner, to reach the finish 5min 55sec ahead of former WRC star Martin Prokop.
“It was a good rally for me. We were here for the first time and managed to win. I have a lot of fans in Russia. It was a nice start to the season and, of course, thanks to Toyota. It’s the best team!”
Saeidan carded an impressive time of 13min 31sec on his debut with the Toyota and settled into sixth overall, beating Przygonski and the experienced Russian Boris Gadasin in the process.
The Pole said:
“Yes, we rolled over twice. You can say, it was a pretty bad day. The first time I was a bit quicker in the turn that it was necessary. There was a snow bank and we overturned and blocked the road. Thanks to Yasir Saiedan for helping us and Martin Prokop the second time.”
Teams tackled a further two selective sections on Sunday before the ceremonial finish in the village of Vyartsilya. Al-Attiyah carded a time of 1hr 19min 50sec through the first stage to beat Prokop by 1min 18sec and extend his comfortable lead in the overall classification. Saeidan and Domzala were fifth and seventh.
There were no late dramas for the Qatari in the shorter final selective section and another fastest time – 15 seconds quicker than Prokop – earned the two-time Dakar winner his first victory in Russia. Saeidan was sixth quickest but Domzala retired before the stage start to cap a disappointing weekend for the Pole.
2018 Baja Russia Northern Forest Rally – final results
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) – Toyota Hilux Overdrive – 5hrs 14min 07sec
2. Martin Prokop (CZE)/Jan Tomanek (CZE) – Ford F150 Evo – 5hrs 20min 02sec
3. Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS)/Konstantin Zhiltsov(RUS) – MINI One 5hrs 25min 31sec
4. Jakub Przygonski (POL)/Tom Colsoul (BEL) – MINI John Cooper Works Rally – 5hrs 36min 27sec
5. Yasir Saeidan (SAU)/Alexei Kuzmich (RUS) – Toyota Hilux Overdrive – 5hrs 41min 09sec
6. Andrey Rudskoy (RUS)/Evgeny Zagorodniuk (RUS) – G-Force BARS – 6hrs 00min 56sec
7. Fernando Alvarez (ESP)/Juan Pablo Monasterolo (ARG) – Volkswagen Amarok – 6hrs 10min 29sec
8. Alexsey Titov (RUS)/Andrey Rusov (RUS) – Ford F150 – 6hrs 44min 4