Overdrive Racing’s Vasilyev misses out on FIA Baja title at Baja Portalegre 500

Overdrive Racing’s Vladimir Vasilyev missed out in his challenge to win the inaugural 2019 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas at Portugal’s Baja Portalegre 500 on Saturday.

The VRT Toyota Hilux driver and co-driver Konstantin Zhiltsov began the second leg of the final round of the new series handily-placed in fifth place, but a broken prop shaft and a substantial time loss on the first selective section of the morning cost the Russian nearly 40 minutes and pushed him down to an eventual 13th place.

Vasilyev came into the weekend holding a one-point lead over Argentina’s Orlando Terranova in a three-way title race with Poland’s Jakub Przygonski a further two points behind. Victory for Terranova enabled the Mendoza driver to snatch the title from his Polish rival, with Vasilyev finishing third in the unofficial points’ standings.

The Portuguese duo of Miguel Barbosa and Pedro Velosa teamed up with Overdrive Racing for the first time in a second Hilux. The three-time former winner of the event won the first two stages with impressive performances but, like Vasilyev, lost time on the third stage in dramatic circumstances and with it went his chance of taking a possible victory.

The Portuguese driver lost his way six kilometres into the timed test and, after racking up additional kilometres on the wrong route, he returned to the correct track via a water splash that was not in the road book. The water was much deeper than Barbosa had anticipated and the engine stalled in the water, resulting in an even bigger time loss.

Belgian veteran Grégoire de Mevius made a dramatic return to cross-country rallying action in a third Overdrive Toyota Hilux with fellow countryman Andre Leyh navigating. The former FIA Group N World Champion climbed steadily through the field to reach the finish in eighth overall.

Action got underway with a short 4.66km stage close to Portalegre on Friday morning before the action took to the rural tracks and trails of remote Portugal for a selective section of 99.22km on Friday afternoon.

Barbosa made a sensational start to his life with an Overdrive Toyota and clocked the fastest time of 3min 45.8sec to snatch the lead of 0.3 seconds from Przygonski. Vasilyev came in seventh – seven seconds off the lead – and De Mevius was 11th.

Terranova was the first driver to finish the afternoon’s longer selective section of 69.05km in a time of 54min 27sec and that gave the Argentine an overnight lead of 54min 07sec over title rival Przygonski, despite Barbosa extending his overall lead with the fastest time of 54min 05sec.Vasilyev finished the stage 1min 38sec behind the stage winner and slotted into fifth place at the night halt. De Mevius was 12th on his return to top-flight action.

The bulk of the action took place over two selective sections of 193.57km and 191.74km on Saturday. Terranova snatched an outright lead of 3min 52.7sec over Przygonski on the demanding opener with a time of 2hr 14min 16sec, as Barbosa slipped out of contention for the win, lost 51 minutes after a navigational issue and fell to 29th overall.

Vasilyev also suffered time delays with a broken prop shaft, dropped 39 minutes to the stage winner and slipped back to 23rd overall. De Mevius was ninth quickest and moved up to eighth in the overall standings.

The final stage would decide the outcome of the 2019 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas and Terranova held his nerve to seal a maiden title to take home to South America. The Argentina clocked the fourth fastest time to confirm a winning margin of 2min 53.17sec over Spaniard Joan Roma.

With his Toyota repaired, Vasilyev wrapped up his FIA season by climbing 10 places to confirm 13th overall and De Mevius was a solid eighth in the third car.

Overdrive Racing now switches its attention to preparations for the 2020 Dakar Rally, which will cross the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the first time in January.

2019 Baja Portalegre 500 – positions after SS4
1. Orlando Terranova (ARG)/Ronnie Graue (ARG) MINI John Cooper Works Rally, 5hrs 39min 24.4sec
2. Joan Roma (ESP)/Dani Oliveras (ESP) Borgward BX7 DKR Evo, 5hrs 42min 17.6sec
3. Jakub Przygonski (POL)/Timo Gottschalk (DEU) MINI John Cooper Works Rally, 5hrs 44min 07.1sec
4. Helder Oliveira (PRT)/Paulo Fiuza (PRT) MINI All4 Racing, 5hrs 47min 08.2sec
5. Ricardo Pórem (PRT)/Manuel Pórem (PRT) Borgward BX7 DKR Evo, 5hrs 49min 42.0sec
6. Tiago Reis (PRT)/Valter Cardosa (PRT) Mitsubishi Lancer, 5hrs 55min 09.8sec
7. Alexandre Franco (PRT)/Rui Franco (PRT) BMW Evo X1, 5hrs 56min 48.2sec
8. Grégoire de Mevius (BEL)/Andre Leyh (BEL) Toyota Hilux Overdrive, 5hrs 57min 09.1sec…
13. Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS) Toyota Hilux Overdrive, 6hrs 32min 08.9sec…

2019 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas – final standings
1. Orlando Terranova (ARG), 141 pts ; 2. Jakub Przygonski (POL), 125 pts ; 3. Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS), 112 pts…

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