HAIL: As teams refettle cars and competitors take some much-needed time off during the official rest day at Hail Rally Toyota 2020, attention now turns to what is set to be a gripping finale to the 2020 FIA World Cup for Cross Country Bajas at Hail Baja 2 on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The three major titles are still up for grabs and Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah’s wire-to-wire victory in Hail Baja 1 has opened the door to a fascinating number of permutations to decide the outcome of the overall drivers’ championship.
Official points still need to be approved by the FIA but, provisionally, Al-Attiyah has catapulted himself into third in the rankings with 28 points and now trails new leader Vladimir Vasilyev by 15 points and teammate Bernhard Ten Brinke by 14.5 points.
Russian driver Denis Krotov is fourth, seven points adrift of Al-Attiyah, and also still in with a mathematical chance of snatching the title, while a win for Carlos Sainz at Hail Baja 2 and serious trouble for all his rivals would open the door for the Spaniard to snatch glory at the 11th hour.
A repeat success and two stage wins for Al-Attiyah would be sufficient to clinch the FIA Baja title if neither Vasilyev nor Ten Brinke could finish inside the top three.
With the three-time Dakar champion determined to show his teeth and push for the title, rival drivers within the X-raid Mini team, most notably Sainz and Stephane Peterhansel, could well become the thorn in his side if the battle was to be as intense on Hail Baja 2 as it was last weekend. Stage wins for either of the Mini JCW Buggy drivers could change the situation completely and deprive Al-Attiyah of vital points.
As second-placed Ten Brinke said: “Maybe I can self improve a little. We are still in for the title. We are two and Vasilyev (Vladimir) is one, but if Nasser wins the next race and we are not in the top four (subject to stage wins), Nasser can win. Let’s see, we have two days to make better steps for the next Baja.”
Despite drive shaft issues and a disappointing finish at Hail Baja 1, Vasily Gryazin remains in prime position to claim the FIA T3 title. In the unofficial standings, the Russian SRT Can-Am Maverick X3 driver holds a 25-point advantage over Saleh Al-Saif and a 28-point lead over Guillaume de Mevius.
A finish should guarantee the Russian the title and only outright victory and two stage wins would enable his Belgian rival to tie, should Gryazin fail to finish. Al-Saif knows that victory and two stage wins would give him the title if the Russian was to retire. Bernt Hoffman is not competing.
Two competitors will also be looking anxiously at each other to decide the outcome of the new FIA T4 category. Again subject to FIA approval, Kees Koolen heads into a showdown with Poland’s Aron Domzala holding a seven-point advantage.
The Dutchman admitted at the post-event press conference that he had not even considered his chance of taking the title until the conclusion of Hail Baja 1 and he now stands in prime position to battle with Domzala. Both drivers will be at the helm of South Racing Can-Ams, the latter running under the Monster Energy Team banner. Victory for either driver should confirm the title.
Hail Rally Toyota 2020 is taking place under the supervision of the Hail Regional Development Authority in cooperation with the General Authority for Tourism and National Heritage and the General Authority for Sport.