Belgian preparation company Overdrive Racing will run three Toyota Hiluxes in next week’s Sealine Cross-Country Rally, with Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah piecing together a last-minute deal to run one of the South African-built cars on the third round of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies.
Under the management of Jean-Marc Fortin, the Belgian team will run three cars on a cross-country event for the first time. Al-Attiyah and Spanish co-driver Lucas Cruz Senra will crew the first of the three Toyotas, with the Argentinean duo of Lucio Alvarez and Ronnie Graue taking their place in the second car and Qatar’s Faisal Al-Attiyah being joined by French co-driver Matthieu Baumel in the third entry.
The team has achieved commendable results in recent years, including an outright victory in the Saudi Arabian Ha’il Baja with Yazeed Al-Rajhi, FIA Baja titles in 2007 and 2010 and, more recently, third, fifth and 10th overall in the 2012 Dakar Rally together with the Imperial Toyota Team, courtesy of Giniel de Villiers, Alvarez and Duncan Vos.
Al-Attiyah, the winner of the Dakar Rally in 2011, teamed up with Lucas Cruz Senra – himself a Dakar winner with Carlos Sainz in 2010 – to win last November’s Sealine Baja, the successful FIA candidate event that led to Qatar’s inclusion in this year’s FIA World Cup.
“I am looking forward to racing the Toyota in my home race,” said an excited Al-Attiyah. “The decision to race was made quite late due to my WRC and Olympic Games commitments, but it was important for me to represent Qatar at my home event and I would like to thank Citroën for allowing me to take this opportunity.”
The Overdrive Racing Toyotas were built in South Africa in conjunction with Toyota Motorsport South Africa and Hallspeed and are powered by the 4.6-litre V8 engine that conforms to the latest FIA regulations. The power plants develop around 330bhp and deliver 560Nm of torque @ 3,300rpm.
The Toyotas have optimised weight distribution and are fitted with Reiger racing suspension, improved braking and cooling systems, a six-speed Sadev sequential gearbox and Sadev centre differential.
“I tested the Toyota Hilux earlier in the year and was very impressed with the performance considering the car is built to the full 2012 regulations,” added Al-Attiyah. “The V8 engine is very impressive, bearing in mind it is a standard engine.”
Overdrive is based at Villers-le-Bouillet, near Huy in Belgium, and is also receiving support for the Sealine Cross-Country Rally programme from Qatar’s local Toyota importer Abdullah Abdulghani & Bros. Co. (AAB), a keen supporter of motor sport and motoring-related projects in the State of Qatar.
“We are very excited to be racing with three 2012 Toyota Hilux cars in Qatar and to have the likes of Nasser Al-Attiyah racing as part of our team,” enthused team director Jean-Marc Fortin, whose team also prepared the Toyota that steered Dutchman Peter van Merksteijn to second overall in last month’s Italian Baja.
“We are looking forward to an interesting race. Lucio and Faisal will be making their first appearances in an FIA event and we are expecting a strong performance from them as well.”
Faisal Al-Attiyah will call upon all the experience of his co-driver Baumel in the third of the Overdrive cars. A newcomer to the sport, the Qatari will benefit from Baumel’s experience of the Middle East, which has seen him partner both Al-Attiyah and Al-Rajhi to success in the region, in addition to his experience with several top teams on the Dakar Rally.
International teams will go through scrutineering checks in Doha on Monday (April 16th), prior to the ceremonial start in the afternoon. There will be a timed super special stage on Tuesday (April 17th) and the first of four desert legs of the new Sealine Cross-Country Rally begins on Wednesday (April 18th) Action draws to a close on Saturday, April 21st.