The Andalucía Rally (May 12-16) heralds the start of the 2021 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies which, this year, has an expanded calendar and will take the contenders to new as well as more familiar territories for the seven round series.
The Spanish newcomer marks the start of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies
Andalucía Rally runs for the second time and this year marks its debut in the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies, providing a fresh challenge for many of the crews on the impressive entry list of more than 80 competitors in the T1, T3 and T4 groups. Based around the bivouac at Hacienda El Rosalejo, near Villamartin in eastern Spain, the event takes in five selective sections covering 966 competitive kilometres over typical gravel Andalusian landscape.
Nasser Al-Attiyah and co-driver Matthieu Baumel head the provisional entry list and the multiple title-winning duo return to Spain as the victors of the first running of the event in 2020. The Qatari/French crew, driving a Toyota Hilux Overdrive, will however face stiff competition from some of their closest rivals who also contested last year’s candidate event in anticipation of its inclusion in the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies.
Carlos Sainz, double FIA World Rally Champion and winner of the Dakar Rally on three occasions, also returns to the Andalucía Rally. The Spaniard, with Lucas Cruz alongside him in the MINI John Cooper Works Rally, narrowly lost out on the win last year by just over three minutes after nearly nine hours of competition and will doubtless be looking to add a home win to an already impressive list of victories.
Yazeed Al Rajhi got his cross-country campaign off to a great start this season with victory on the Dubai International Baja, the second round of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas. The Saudi Arabian driver, navigated by Dirk von Zitzewitz, also stood on the 2020 Andalucía Rally podium last year with a fine third place and is sure to be back on the pace in another Hilux Overdrive.
Vladimir Vasilyev also had a good start to the season, winning the opening Northern Forest round of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas in February. He and co-driver Alexey Kuzmich will be competing in their BMW X3 on the Andalucía Rally for the first time, hoping to kick start their Cross-Country Rally campaign in fine style.
Yasir Seaidan currently heads the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas courtesy of two wins from four events, and he and fellow Saudi Arabian co-driver Omar Allahim will doubtless be looking to better last year’s 10th place finish in Spain in their MINI John Cooper Works Rally. Erik van Loon and Sébastien Delaunay also return to the event as team-mates to Al Rajhi, and the Dutch/French pairing will be hoping for better luck after dropping way down the classification last year. A host of other strong contenders in T1 include Denis Krotov/Konstantin Zhiltsov in another MINI John Cooper Works Rally and the X-Raid crew of Mattias Ekström, 2016 FIA World Rallycross Champion, and Emil Bergkvist. Laia Sanz is also supporting her home round of the series and moves from her more regular T4 machinery into another X-Raid run T1 MINI All 4 Racing.
The T3 category has another impressive field with no fewer than 25 crews on the provisional entry list, while T4 has attracted 22 entrants to the opening round of the series. Kees Koolen, Aron Domzala and Khalifa Al Attiyah top the T4 entries, the trio finishing first, second and third respectively in last year’s FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas.
Total distance 1,566 km
Selective section distance: 966 (61.69%)
Number of selective sections: 5
Nasser Al Attiyah/Mathieu Baumel Toyota Hilux Overdrive
Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz MINI John Cooper Works Rally
Yazeed Al Rajhi/Dirk von Zitzewitz Toyota Hilux Overdrive
Vladimir Vasilyev/Alexey Kuzmich BMW X3
Yasir Seaidan/Omar Allahim MINI John Cooper Works Rally
Erik van Loon/Sébastien Delaunay Toyota Hilux Overdrive
Denis Krotov/Konstantin Zhiltsov MINI John Cooper Works Rally
Mattias Ekström/Emil Bergkvist MINI John Cooper Works Buggy
Zala Vaidotas/Paulo Fiuza MINI John Cooper Works Rally
Martin Kaczmarski/Tapio Suominen Toyota Hilux Overdrive