Three-way showdown in Jordan as Al Attiyah misses out

Sajith B Warrier

Bengaluru, September 18: Three gladiators of world cross-country rallying -- Vladimir Vasilyev, Orlando Terranova and Jakub Przygonski -- will lock horns and battle it out for FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas at the Jordan Baja, starting in the stunning Red Sea resort of Aqaba from Thursday (September 19).

However, ace Qatari driver and three-time Dakar Rally champion Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah will be missing out as his Overdrive Racing team had to rework their plans after double FIA Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso joined their line-up.

Despite no outright wins, a series of consistent finishes, have given Russia's Vasilyev a slender six-point advantage in the title race after six of eight rounds.

With a best result of the season being second place at the Italian Baja in June, Vasilyev's and co-driver Konstantin Zhiltsov's success has come on the back of the reliability of a VRT Rally Team Toyota Hilux, prepared by Overdrive Racing.

In Jordan, however, the crew will switch to one of four older specification X-Raid Minis entered in the FIA category, with both the Russian's title rivals also running in the same Germany-based team.

Because of logistical issues to transport cars and equipment to the Red Sea in a short time frame, the X-raid Minis were shipped to Jordan before Baja Poland and will not return until after the Rally of Morocco.

Change of plan

The Overdrive Racing Team had initially hoped to team up with Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa to run a car for Al Attiyah in Jordan.

However, since news broke that Alonso has joined the line-up and is carrying out preparations an assault at the Dakar Rally in January 2020, Toyota's plans changed.

Przygonski challenge

Poland's Przygonski is the defending champion in the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies and has bounced back into contention to win the Bajas series with second place in Baja Poland at the start of the month.

The former enduro rider also won the Dubai International Baja in March and now has an outside chance of securing the title. He trails Vasilyev by 17 points and Terranova by 11.

Al Qassimi in fray

Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi is no stranger to rallying in Jordan. He won the Jordanian round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC) in 2007 and has been on the MERC podium five times.

The decision to tackle the Baja will see the Abu Dhabi Racing star crossing Wadi Rum competitively for the first time. The Emirati carried out a test session with French co-driver Xavier Panseri.

First step

Jordan takes another giant step into FIA motor sporting history when its first ever round of the Baja series gets underway with a short super special stage close to the centre of Aqaba from 4pm local time.

This will determine the starting order for the first of the longer selective sections through Wadi Rum and precedes the official pre-event press conference on the start podium and the ceremonial start.

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