Overdrive Racing’s Toyota Hiluxes dominated the upper reaches of the top 10 at the end of Lotto Baja Poland, round eight of the 2015 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies, which finished in Szczecin Bezrzecze on Sunday afternoon.
Four of the Belgian team’s cars finished the event in third, fourth, fifth and sixth overall, while a customer car finished 11th and a fifth team car held 15th before leaving the road on the final stage.
Leading the way were Dutchman Bernhard Ten Brinke and Belgian co-pilot Tom Colsoul in a fine third overall. Ten Brinke drove at a consistent pace from the start and set the second fastest time on the fourth Dobra stage.
Martin Kaczmarski returned to rallying action after a back injury forced him to miss numerous events and the talented Pole teamed up with Finnish co-driver Tapio Suominen to finish his home event in fourth place. The Polish Team Orlen duo of Marek Dabrowski and Jacek Czachor rounded off the top five.
After undergoing a heart procedure and missing the two Bajas in Spain and Hungary, Russian Vladimir Vasilyev teamed up with fellow Russian Konstantin Zhiltsov and tried to kick-start the defence of their FIA World Cup title. The Russian admitted that he was a little rusty after a two-month lay-off and he reached the finish in sixth place and collected valuable championship points in his quest to pip Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah to the FIA World Cup title.
The Polish crew of Pawel Molgo and Janusz Jandrowicz guided their Overdrive Racing-supplied Toyota Hilux to 11th overall, while Dane Jes Munk teamed up with Polish navigator Rafal Martin instead of Frenchman Jean Brucy and held 15th overall before leaving the road on the final Dobra stage.
“I am satisfied with the performance of the cars and the team, but I am very frustrated with the rules and regulations being adopted by the FIA in cross-country at the moment,” said Overdrive Racing’s team director Jean-Marc Fortin. “The rules are unfair. We really need a bigger restrictor for the diesel cars to give a fairer playing field. Staff in Geneva need to look closer at the sport and analyse the data carefully.
“Our drivers performed very well. Martin (Kaczmarski) came back after one year out and was pushing for the podium. He was a little disappointed with his performance this morning in the woods on the tighter stages, but it was an excellent result for him. Bernhard (Ten Brinke) and Marek (Dabrowski) drove very well and Marek had a big fight with Erik Van Loon and won that contest today.
“Vladimir (Vasilyev) admitted that he is still not back to 100%, but he picked up some points here for sixth and he went much better today when we changed the set-up on the car. Pawel Molgo is taking part in the Polish Championship and was on course for eighth or ninth before he had a small accident today. But it was disappointing for Jes Munk, because he was driving well and looking like having a good finish until he hit a tree on the last stage.”
Al-Attiyah drew first blood in the six-kilometre Prologue stage in Szczecin on Friday evening. Ten Brinke recorded a time of 6min 22sec and that lifted the Dutchman into second overall and that was six seconds quicker than fourth-placed Overdrive colleague Dabrowski and nine ahead of fifth-placed Kaczmarski.
Vasilyev was a further six seconds adrift in eighth and the Overdrive-prepared customers cars of Pawel Molgo and Alexander Zheludov were in close attendance in 12th and 16th. Munk safely negotiated the Prologue in 26th with a time of 7min 15sec.
The four selective sections took place in the military area of Drawsko Pomorskie on Saturday and the community of Dobra on Sunday. Pole Krzysztof Holowczyc set the quickest time through the opening 144km selective and edged into a slender lead over Al-Attiyah. Kaczmarski, Ten Brinke, Dabrowski and Vasilyev were third, fourth, sixth and seventh for Overdrive Racing and Munk improved to 16th.
Holowczyc was again fastest on the repeat run through the special and held an overnight advantage of 6min 22sec over Al-Attiyah. Kaczmarski, Ten Brinke, Dabrowski and Vasilyev recorded the third, fourth, sixth and ninth quickest times to stay in the hunt for a podium finish and were classified in third, fourth, sixth and seventh overall. Munk held 18th.
“To be honest I was pleasantly surprised by the stage, it was prepared superbly,” said Kaczmarski, who is still recovering from a back injury. “The stage was really nice and fast and the partnership worked well with Tapio.”
Two runs through the 60km Dobra selective section brought proceedings to a close on Sunday and Ten Brinke set the second fastest time for Overdrive Racing in the first one to maintain third overall. Dabrowski was third, Vasilyev came in sixth and Kaczmarski was seventh. It meant that the Overdrive quartet headed to the final stage in third, fifth, seventh and fourth overall. Jes Munk climbed to 15th.
Al-Attiyah claimed the final stage win to confirm second position behind Holowczyc and Ten Brinke and Kaczmarski stayed out of trouble to seal third and fourth overall. Vasilyev moved up from seventh to sixth when Erik van Loon was delayed on the final stage.
2015 Lotto Baja Poland – final positions:
1. Krzysztof Holowczyc (POL)/Lukasz Kurzeja (POL) Mini All4 Racing 4hr 35min 05sec
2. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Mini All4 Racing 4hr 42min 37sec
3. Bernhard Ten Brinke (NED)/Tom Colsoul (BEL) Overdrive Toyota Hilux 4hr 43min 58sec
4. Martin Kaczmarski (POL)/Tapio Suominen (FIN) Overdrive Toyota Hilux 4hr 44min 49sec
5. Marek Dabrowski (POL)/Jacek Czachor (POL) Overdrive Toyota Hilux 4hr 45min 50sec
6. Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS) Overdrive Toyota Hilux 4hr 53min 21sec
7. Jakub Przygonski (POL)/Andreas Schulz (DEU) Mini All4 Racing 4hr 53min 56sec
8. Adam Malysz (POL)/Xavier Panseri (FRA) Mini All4 Racing 4hr 55min 46sec
9. Miroslav Zapletal (CZE)/Maciej Marton (POL) Hummer H3 5hr 01min 34sec
11. Pawel Molgo (POL)/Janusz Jandrowicz (POL) Overdrive Toyota Hilux 5hr 08min 50sec