After moving into the lead on day two of the 2,500km event across south-west Kazakhstan, the Overdrive Racing Toyota Hilux duo were never able to rest on their laurels on demanding special stages laid on across the Central Asian country’s Mangystau oblast. The quickest time on the final stage was sufficient for Al-Attiyah to seal his third win of the season after victories in Dubai and Qatar.
“A great result for us. We played it smart from the very start. We pushed when we had to and had the right strategy. It was a really enjoyable rally, fantastic, and I am sure many more drivers will come in the future. Thanks to my team, Overdrive, and it was nice to win the last stage. Now we lead the championship and try to keep on like this.”
“The last stage was not easy,”
“There was a lot of water in the last part and it was hard to go fast but we are happy. We were pushing from the beginning to the end and it was a nice fight with Nasser. We enjoyed the race and the terrain in Kazakhstan. It has everything that is necessary in cross-country.”
“We enjoyed the rally a lot after the problems on the first day,”
“We have a few races coming and I look forward to those. I had a puncture this morning 10km after the start. It was a small stage and you cannot win when something like this happens. I did not want to take any risks on the last stage.”
Last year, Yuriy Sazonov was crowned as the winner of the Kazakhstan candidate event for inclusion in the FIA calendar and fourth position was the best he could realistically have hoped to achieve against the professional teams in his Hummer H3 with fellow Kazakh co-driver Vitalyi Yevtyekhov.
Fellow Yerden Shagirov and his Ukrainian co-driver Dmitro Tsyro shrugged off penalties that were later removed from their overall time and reached the finish in Aktau in fifth position in their Toyota Hilux, despite stopping several times in the closing kilometres after rolling their Toyota. The Lithuanian duo of Antanas Juknevicius and Darius Vaiciulis were sixth overall in a similar car and nearly gained a place with Shagirov’s last stage drama. Both cars were built by Overdrive Racing.
Seventh-placed Yasir Saeidan of Saudi Arabia teamed up with Russian navigator Alexey Kuzmich at the 11th hour and the decision was a good one. The Toyota Land Cruiser driver dominated the T2 category from start-to-finish to extend his lead in the FIA T2 standings after five rounds.
Qatar’s defending FIA T2 champion Adel Abdulla was his closest rival in eighth overall, but the Nissan Patrol driver lost chunks of time with wiring loom issues early in the race and further time losses in the sand dunes hampered his progress. The Doha driver reached Aktau 3hrs 17min 14sec behind Saeidan in the overall classification with French co-driver Sébastien Delaunay.
The experienced Czech Miroslav Zapletal and his Slovenian navigator Marek Sykora recovered well from fourth stage suspension issues south of Zhanaozen to finish ninth overall in his Ford F-150, although they were the first of several crews to claim at least 100 hours of time penalties.
Turbo charger issues forced the Russian duo of Viktor Khoroshavtsev and Anton Nikolaev to take 100 hours of time penalties on day two, but the BMW X3 CC crew recovered well over the closing days to round off the top 10. Al-Rajhi was 11th, Kirill Chernenkov 12th, T3 winner Claude Fournier reached Aktau in 13th in his Polaris RXR 1000 and Dmitry Pitulov was 14th.
Mohammed Abu Issa capped a thoroughly miserable week – where a multitude of problems had cost him time – by rolling his Mini All4 Racing gently on the last stage, although the Qatari and navigator Xavier Panseri did reach the finish in 15th position.
AMFK President Marat Abykayev took part in the event with his son Nursultan but crashed his Toyota Land Cruiser heavily out of the final stage.
The final selective started 35.45km north of Aktau and included parts of the opening stage. The timed action ran for 147.94km and included repeat runs over the scenic tracks along the shores of the Caspian Sea run in the opposite direction. After the torrential rain that had battered the area on Wednesday night, rally officials sent a recce crew to drive through the stage again on Thursday.
With Thierry Magnaldi already en route to Europe, navigator Gilles Picard teamed up with route co-ordinator Sergey Talantsev.
“We drove the first few kilometres and then headed to the passage control and carried on,” said Picard. “There was some mud and some standing water but nothing to cause too much concern.”