Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah and his French co-driver Matthieu Baumel head a truly international field of competitors from 18 countries set to challenge for honours in their various categories at next week’s Qatar Cross-Country Rally, round four of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies and round two of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship.
The event is being hosted by the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF) and competitive action gets underway with a timed super special stage at the Losail International Circuit on Wednesday, April 18.
Al Attiyah and South African team-mate Giniel de Villiers are both previous Dakar Rally winners and drive a pair of South African-built Toyota Hiluxes entered by Toyota GAZOO Racing South Africa. They are running alongside another three Toyotas being managed by the Belgian preparations company Overdrive Racing. Saudi Arabia’s Yasir Seaidan, Dutchman Erik van Loon and Poland’s Aron Domzala drive the additional three V8-engined cars.
Although Toyota has the largest team in Qatar on this occasion, X-raid will be hoping to upset the applecart with a single MINI John Cooper Works Rally entered for Poland’s Jakub Przygonski. Russian driver Vladimir Vasilyev also drives a G-Energy Team MINI One at the business end of the field.
Surprisingly, perhaps, a Ford currently leads the points’ standings: Czech driver Martin Prokop has made a superb transition from the WRC over the last two seasons and won the recent Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge in a Ford F-150 Evo designed and developed by the experienced Miroslav Zapletal, himself a front-running privateer in the FIA World Cup for many years.
There are further T1 entries for Spain’s Fernando Alvarez, Oman’s Abdullah Al-Zubair, Dubai-based Georgy Gomshiasvili, Saudi Arabia’s Khalid Al-Feraihi and a late Toyota entry for Qatar’s Khaled Al-Suwaidi, who makes his first appearance in the QCCR with British navigator Marshall Clarke.
Qatar’s Adel Abdulla will lock horns with Saudi Arabian championship rival Ahmed Shegawi in the T2 or showroom category, while Russia’s Yuliya Migunova-Khegay and Romania’s Laurentiu Claudiu Barbu offer European resistance.
Frenchman Claude Fournier tops the T3 entry in his Polaris RZR 1000. He faces competition from the likes of Spain’s Jose Luis Pena Campo, and Santiago Navarro, Russian Ravil Maginov and Italy’s Michele Cinotto.
Following KTM’s decision to tackle an event in Morocco at the same time as the event in Qatar and Honda’s decision to change its competition programme this season to concentrate on preparations for the Dakar
Rally (including next week’s Merzouga Rally) the door is left wide open for Poland’s Maciej Giemza to snatch maximum FIM championship points in the motorcycle category.
Dutch businessman Kees Koolen again locks horns with Russian rival Alexsandr Maxsimov in the quads.
The QMMF is also running a National Baja for motorcycles and cars behind the FIA and FIM-sanctioned event. Competitors will attend from several of the GCC countries. Fourteen cars and five bikes will take part, in addition to four cars from the main rally, which are eligible for both events.