For the Belgian Overdrive Toyota Racing Team the Baja Russia Northern Forest was an event with mixed emotions. FIA World Champion T1 Nasser Al Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel won the race in their first participation, Saudi Arabian FIA World Champion T2 Yasir Saeidan had his surprising good premiere in the T1-class - but Poland´s Aron Domzala had to retire after rolling the car twice on Saturday.
Al-Attiyah and French navigator Matthieu Baumel won four of the five stages in their Overdrive Racing Toyota Hilux, running under the Tamim Al-Majid Team banner, to reach the finish 5:55 minutes ahead of former WRC star Martin Prokop from the Czech Republic. They kick-started the action through a 17km super special stage on Friday afternoon and set the target time of 12:12 minutes in their 2017-specification Toyota Hilux. Rival Jakub Przygonski dropped 01:25 minutes to the Qatari, but Al-Attiyah’s Overdrive Racing team-mate and last year’s Russian winner Domzala pipped the champion by four seconds to snatch the overnight lead.
The Qatari extended his lead through the first of the selective sections on Saturday morning by beating Tapio Lauronen by 48 seconds and the Qatari was four minutes quicker than Russian driver Vladimir Vasilyev through the second one to extend his lead at the second overnight halt to 4:20 mins over Martin Prokop. Sunday he carded a time of 01:19:50 hours through the first stage to beat Prokop by 1:18 mins and extend his comfortable lead in the overall classification. Saeidan and Domzala were fifth and seventh. There were no late dramas for the Qatari in the shorter final selective section and another fastest time – 15 seconds quicker than Prokop – earned the two-time Dakar winner his first victory in Russia.
Saudi Arabian team debutant Yasir Saiedan delivered a stunning performance to reach the finish in fifth place with Russian navigator Alexey Kuzmich. In the Prologue, Saeidan carded an impressive time of 13:31 mins on his debut with the Toyota and settled into sixth overall, beating Przygonski and the experienced Russian Boris Gadasin in the process. On Saturday, Saiedan was sixth in the opener and fourth in the second stage to hold sixth overall. Sunday Saeidan was sixth quickest.
Poland’s Aron Domzala and Maciej Marton endured a fraught weekend in the third Toyota. Last year’s winner rolled his car on both of Saturday’s timed stages and retired before the second of the stages on the final day. "Yes, we rolled over twice. You can say, it was a pretty bad day," said Domzala. "The first time I was a bit quicker in the turn that it was necessary. There was a snow bank and we overturned and blocked the road. Thanks to Yasir Saiedan for helping us and Martin Prokop the second time."
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