The Portuguese duo of Tiago Reis and Valder Cardosa suffered a setback to their challenge for honours in the 2023 FIA European Cup for Cross-Country Bajas, when they slid off the side of the first slippery stage on Saturday morning and were forced to retire their Overdrive Racing-run Toyota Hilux from second position in the overall classification of the 10th Rally Greece Off-Road.
The crew came into the weekend’s action leading the championship after claiming outright victory at the opening round in Spain. They won both the third and fifth stages on Friday, despite the muddy and slippery conditions favouring the lighter and more agile side-by-side vehicles on the narrow tracks in northern Greece.
Overdrive Racing staff supplied logistical and service support to several teams, including a Toyota Hilux for the Italian duo of Manuel Mengozzi and Erica Bombardini and the Hungarian pairing of Kornél ‘Csucsu’ Luzács and Márk Mesterházi.
Luzács reached the finish in eighth place and third in the T1 category, while Mengozzi was 14th overall and fifth in class.
Reis got his Greek challenge for honours off to the perfect start with the fastest time of 18min 09.5sec in the T1+ category on the muddy and slippery 18.08km Prologue stage at Asproklissia, despite reversing three times on the tricky stage.
He beat Greek debutant and Toyota Gazoo Baltics rival Benediktas Vanagas by 23.6 seconds. Urvo Mannama made it a T1 Toyota 1-2-3 in his Rally Raid Estonia Hilux and veteran Pole Krzyzstof Holowcycz was the best of the rest in fourth.
Overdrive Racing had built a Hilux for the Speedy Motorsport’s Kornél ‘Csucsu’ Luzács and he came home in fifth place in T1. The stage was dominated by T3 and T4 cars with the win falling to Hungarian T3 entrant Csaba Miklos.
Friday’s action centred around two runs through a pair of special stages of 72.70km and 83.85km with the opener starting in Lechovo and finishing in Mavrokampos and the second one looping around Mavrokampos in Kastoria in the Macedonia region of northern Greece.
Reis again topped the T1 times on the first pass through a muddy and slippery Lechovo stage and slotted into sixth overall behind a quintet of T4 and T3 cars. But the Portuguese was fastest of all the drivers through Mavrokampos and that performance lifted the Hilux driver to third in the overall classification behind João Dias and Amerigo Ventura. Luzács was 14th overall and Mengozzi was 26th.
Dias continued to benefit from the slippery conditions on the demanding stages and the Portuguese claimed the win on the second pass through Lechovo and extended his lead over Ventura to 3min 09.8sec. Reis came home in fourth and maintained third overall. Luzács and Mengozzi were classified in 15th and 24th.
Dias maintained his composure through the last stage of the day and headed into the night halt with a lead of 5min 36sec over Reis, who climbed to second place with the fastest time. Luzács and Mengozzi were 11th and 21st.
The final day’s action was centre around two runs through a 96.35km special stage that ran between Dendrochori and Mavrokampos.
Reis slid off the treacherously slippery and muddy track and out of the running, on a stage where Vanagas also retired his Hilux at the same place and the stage win fell to Alexandre Pinto. Ventura regained the outright lead after Dias retired his Can-Am following a fire and the Italian held on through the final stage to claim a comfortable victory with the fastest time, his cause helped when his closest rival Pau Navarro retired.
10th Rally Greece Off-Road – result
1. Amerigo Ventura (ITA)/Mirko Brun (ITA) Yamaha YXZ 1000 R (T4) 8hr 51min 09.4sec
2. Krzysztof Holowczyc (POL)/Lukasz Kurzeja (POL) BMW X3 9hr 16min 22.7sec
3. Jesus Fuster (ESP)/Carlos Fernandez (ESP) Herrator Inzane X3 (T3) 9hr 22min 11.5sec
4. Fernando Alvarez (ESP)/Xavier Panseri (FRA) GRally Team OT3 (T3) 9hr 30min 34.8sec
5. Urvo Mannama (EST)/Risto Lepik (EST) Toyota Hilux 9hr 36min 09.5sec
6. Ghislain de Mevius (BEL)/Johan Jalet (BEL) GRally Team OT3 (T3) 9hr 38min 00.8sec
7. Miguel Valero (ESP)/Roman Aguilera (ESP) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo (T4) 9hr 39min 27.6sec
8. Kornél ‘Csucsu’ Luzács (HUN)/Márk Mesterházi (HUN) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 9hr 41min 45.6sec
9. Israfil Akyuz (TUR)/Mert Tepe (TUR) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo (T4) 9hr 50min 49.4sec
10. Kees Koolen (NLD)/Wouter Rosegaar (NLD) GRally Team OT3 (T3) 9hr 54min 50.7sec
11. Wlodimierz Grajek (POL)/Michal Goleniewski (POL) Toyota Hilux 10hr 01min 41.2sec
14. Manuel Mengozzi (ITA)/Erica Bombardini (ITA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 10hr 15min 16.2sec
Tiago Reis (PRT)/Valter Cardosa (PRT) Toyota Hilux Overdrive RETIRED – SS6
Benediktas Vanagas (LTU)/Kuldar Sikk (EST) Toyota Hilux RETIRED – SS6
(T1 unless stated)