By Sports reporter/Lusail
Jakub ‘Kuba’ Przygonski, the winner of the 2018 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies, has reached an agreement with Overdrive Racing and will drive a Toyota Hilux alongside Nasser Saleh al-Attiyah and Yazeed al-Rajhi at next week’s Manateq Qatar Cross-Country Rally.
The Polish former motorcycle enduro racer switched to rallying on four-wheels after a successful career with the Orlen Team on a KTM and victory at the Qatar event in 2018 was a spring board for his FIA World Cup success. Przygonski finished third in the Lusail-based event in 2019.
He and German navigator Timo Gottschalk have been one of the leading pairings at the Dakar and on rounds of the FIA World Cup in recent seasons and Przygonski is relishing the challenge of racing with a V8-engined Toyota for the first time.
With his switch to a Hilux, Overdrive Racing has a formidable line up of three T1 Toyotas set to tackle the opening round of the FIA World Cup, which will run over five days and around 1,430 competitive kilometres in a route of 2,200km across the length and breadth of the State of Qatar.
Al-Attiyah has been a dominant force in cross-country rallying in recent years, but the Qatari narrowly missed out on a fourth Dakar Rally victory last month and will be keen to make a good start to his FIA World Cup campaign after falling short to eventual winner Stéphane Peterhansel in 2019.
The Qatari has won his home event on seven occasions, beginning with a win on the candidate rally in 2011 and following up that success with victories in 2012, 2014-2017 and last year. Two of those wins came with his regular French navigator Matthieu Baumel.
“This is always an important rally for me and a pleasure to compete at home and to see international competitors coming to Qatar,” said al-Attiyah. “We narrowly missed out on another Dakar Rally win, but Matthieu and I returned to action last week and we won the Oman International Rally. We are looking forward to keeping up that momentum with another win in Qatar.”
Yazeed al-Rajhi finished runner-up to al-Attiyah in Qatar last season and arrives in Doha fresh from finishing fourth in January’s Dakar Rally and from a recent outing at the Ha’il International Rally. He teams up with Ulster navigator Michael Orr, with whom he claimed four victories on rounds of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship. The pair used the recent Ha’il event to test various components and settings after a wheel failure had cost them a potential win on the second day.
Jean-Marc Fortin, CEO of Overdrive Racing, said: “We are delighted to welcome Kuba and Timo to the team and look forward to working with them. We have seen in recent seasons what a determined competitor he can be and know that he will add strength in depth to the Toyota challenge in the 2020 FIA World Cup.”
Overdrive Racing teamed up with Red Bull at the end of 2019 to launch the new OT3 by Overdrive, a prototype T3 vehicle that the Belgian car preparations company hopes will challenge at the top of the leader board in the up-and-coming open and modified all-terrain class.
The car was tested in Morocco in the autumn and driven by five-time Dakar champion Cyril Despres and several rookies at the Dakar Rally, as part of a new Red Bull Off-Road programme.
Two cars have been entered in the Manateq Qatar Cross-Country Rally with Dutch businessman Kees Koolen driving one for the first time and the other being prepared for the Russian driver Fedor Vorobyev, the 2019 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas champion. He finished eighth overall and second in T3 in Qatar last season in a Can-Am and again teams up with fellow Russian Kirill Shubin for his debut in an OT3.
Historic Souq Waqif in downtown Doha will host the ceremonial start on February 22nd and the prize giving ceremony on February 27th after five demanding days of timed action through the Qatar deserts, where the emphasis will be as much on precise navigation as outright speed and performance.
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