Sunderland and Attiyah among strong line-up for Rally Kazakhstan - GulfToday

Sunderland and Attiyah among strong line-up for Rally Kazakhstan

Sam Sunderland

Dubai-based Briton and former Dakar winner Sam Sunderland heads the two-wheel field.

 The Automotorsport Federation of the Republic of Kazakhstan (AMFK) on Monday announced the strongest entry for Rally Kazakhstan in the five years that it has been an integral part of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies.

The event takes place on June 8th-13th and will also serve as the opening round of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Cup for the first time this year.

Forty-one FIA crews, 14 motorcycles and four quads running in the FIM section and two Gaz trucks and an entry from Aktau in the national category will line up at the official ceremonial start in Aktau City on the shores of the Caspian Sea on June 8.

Overdrive Racing-built Toyota Hiluxes and X-raid MINI derivatives dominate the sharp end of the FIA entry list with defending Rally Kazakhstan champion and two-time winner Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah, Frenchman Ronan Chabot, Saudi Arabia’s 2018 winner Yazeed Al Rajhi and the Argentine duo of Lucio Alvarez and Juan Cruz Yacopini entered in five Toyotas.

Attiyah last week completely dominated the 2021 Jordan Rally to confirm an historic 14th victory on the event by the winning margin of 17min 04.8sec on Saturday.

The Volkswagen Polo GTi driver and his Andorra-based co-driver Matthieu Baumel won each of the 10 special stages in the Dead Sea and Mount Nebo areas to extend their leads in the FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC). Attiyah is bidding for a record-breaking 17th regional title this year, as he secured a 78th career MERC event win and Baumel sealed personal win number 27.

Mattias Ekstrom and Sebastien Halpern drive a pair of MINI John Cooper Works Buggies, Denis Krotov wheels out a MINI John Cooper Works Rally and former FIA World Cup winner Vladimir Vasilyev has entered his VRT Team MINI Cooper Countryman.

There is a pair of Ford F-150 Evos for the Czech veteran Miroslav Zapletal and local driver Andrey Cherednikov and a strong local presence in the T1 category.

Former Africa Eco Race winner Mathieu Serradori has also entered the rally in his South African-built Century CR6.

The entry has strength in depth across both the FIA T3 and T4 categories, with Boris Gadasin, Andrey Novikov, Guillaume de Mevius, Cristina Gutierrez and Fernando Alvarez among 13 drivers challenging for T3 success.

 South Racing-built Can-Am Maverick X3s dominate the T4 section with AMFK President Marat Abykayev driving the solitary Yamaha YXZ 1000 R against a fleet of Can-Am drivers. They include Khalifa Al Attiyah, Kees Koolen, Eugenio Amos, Austin Jones and Hernan Garces.

The opening round of the FIM series sees the first appearance of the Red Bull KTM factory racing team since the Dakar Rally in January. Dubai-based Briton and former Dakar winner Sam Sunderland heads the two-wheel field and is joined in the Austrian team’s line-up by Austria’s Matthias Walkner, who reached the top step of the Dakar podium in 2018. An injury has forced this year’s Dakar winner Kevin Benavides to withdraw his entry on a third KTM.

KTM will face a fierce challenge from the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna factory riders, Skyler Howes and Luciano Benavides, and the Hero Motorsports Team Rally and Monster Energy Yamaha Rally official team. Franco Caimi, Sebastien Buhler and Joaquim Rodrigues ride the Hero 450 Rally bikes and Ross Branch, Andrew Short and Adrien van Beveren represent Yamaha in a formidable field of the world’s leading riders.

Poland’s multiple World Champion Rafal Sonik faces Aleksandr Maksimov, Guatamala’s Rodolfo Guillioli and Argentina’s Manuel Andujar in the quad section. All four will compete on Yamaha 700s.

The outcome of the second round of the FIA World Cup and round one of the FIM series will be fought out over five demanding selective sections in the Aktau and Kenderly areas on the Mangyshlak Peninsula of western Kazakhstan between June 9th-13th. In a total route of 2,270.21km, 1,465.64km will be competitive pending any late changes.

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