After a season of FIA cross-country events decimated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Overdrive Racing and Toyota Gazoo Racing have entered five Toyota Hiluxes in the new Andalucia Rally in southern Spain. The event takes place on Oct. 6-10.
Devised in a short space of time, following the cancelation of the Rally of Morocco, event officials have managed to come up with a challenging five-day off-road rally, which will take place on rural tracks, open plains and gravel trails in the expansive Andalucia region, situated between Seville, Malaga and Jerez.
There have been no rounds of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies since Qatar in February and this non-championship event will be the only competitive opportunity for teams like Toyota to carry out shakedown tests in Europe before the Dakar heads to Saudi Arabia in January.
Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah drives the sole Toyota Gazoo Racing entry and is joined by a quartet of Overdrive Racing-entered Toyotas for Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi, the Dutch duo of Erik van Loon and Bernhard Ten Brinke and Frenchman Ronan Chabot.
With his sporting calendar decimated by the pandemic, Al-Attiyah has been busy in the last couple of weeks since Baja Poland tackling a couple of traditional special stage rallies in a saloon-type competition car. Along with French navigator Matthieu Baumel, he took part in Terre de Castine in France and Rally Terra de Auga in Spain, the latter finishing prematurely after an in-car fire.
“Now we are fully focused on Andalucia,” said Baumel. “The recent experience we got in France and Spain with only one pass during the recce will help us for the Prologue in Andalucia. Then, we have the four days of racing that will give us a good opportunity to set up the last changes on the Toyota for the next Dakar. We will see what happens. It should be interesting.”
Al-Rajhi has been out of action since the early spring and is relishing the chance to hit the selective sections again before his country hosts the Dakar for a second time. Yazeed teams up with Germany’s Dirk von Zitzewitz again after finishing second in the Qatar event in February with Michael Orr.
Ten Brinke and Belgian navigator Tom Colsoul finished second in September’s Baja Poland and are joined by Ten Brinke’s fellow countryman Van Loon and his French co-driver Sébastien Delaunay. Chabot and Gilles Pillot crew the fourth of the Overdrive entries.
There will be strong competition for the Toyotas, most notably from two-time WRC champion and triple Dakar winner Carlos Sainz and French Dakar legend and current FIA World Cup champion Stéphane Peterhansel.
Overdrive Racing teamed up with Red Bull to develop a prototype OT3 by Overdrive in 2019 and the cars ran well at the Qatar Cross-Country Rally. Three of the new machines are entered in the T3 category in Andalucia under the banner of the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team.
Sweden’s Kevin Hansen teams up with Frenchman François Cazelet and American youngster Mitch Guthrie is partnered by the experienced WRC navigator and 2020 Hail Rally winning co-driver Ole Floene. Fellow American Seth Quintero teams up with Germany’s Dennis Zenz in the third OT3.
There will be time for shakedown tests on Sunday and Monday, before the timed action gets under way on the FIA-sanctioned event with a 10km super special stage on Tuesday afternoon (Oct. 6).
Action then heads on to the remote plains and dusty trails of southern Spain for four selective sections on Oct. 7-10 before the awards’ ceremony in the evening.
Each of the sections of approximately 240km (split into two), 270km (split into two), 300km and 210km start and finish at the rally’s hub at Hacienda El Rosalejo, a large event venue that is hosting the entire event at Villamartin. In a compact route of 1,354km, 1,030km are set to be competitive.