– Al-Attiyah seals FIA World Cup title after season with Toyota Gazoo Racing
– Overdrive Racing offers technical support to seventh-placed Barbosa
Overdrive Racing’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Timo Gottschalk finished a weather-dominated 37th Baja Portalegre 500, the seventh and penultimate round of the 2023 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas, in second overall.
The Toyota Hilux driver now looks to be set for a possible four-way duel with Juan-Cruz Yacopini, João Ferreira and Krzysztof Holowczyc for the runner-up spot in the Drivers’ Championship with one round still to run in the United Arab Emirates.
Al-Rajhi said: « The organiser did a great job. The weather was here, like always, muddy and slippery and rain, but we are here. It was a big fight but we got second place. I liked it very much. »
Following the cancellation of the forthcoming Jordan Baja for geopolitical reasons, the format of the 2023 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas was modified so that the five best scores counted from seven rounds (instead of six from eight) and Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and co-driver Mathieu Baumel were duly crowned champions after entering the events before Portugal with Toyota Gazoo Racing and Overdrive Racing. The feat meant that Toyota added the FIA World Cup crown to the Dakar Rally victory in January and a second successive FIA World Rally-Raid Championship (W2RC).
In Portugal, Overdrive Racing also offered technical support to the three Portuguese drivers, Miguel Barbosa, Tiago Reis and Francisco Barreto, and their respective co-drivers Paulo Fiúza, Valter Cardoso and Carlos Silva. Barbosa finished seventh overall, Barreto was 31st but Reis retired in SS3.
Action got underway in exceptionally muddy and slippery conditions with a 3.71km Prologue at Coutadas. Al-Attiyah pipped local driver Luis Portela to the fastest time on a track where Al-Rajhi came home in fifth, Reis was sixth and Barbosa and Barreto were 11th and 17th.
The afternoon’s 61.81km stage started at Ponte de Sor and continued via Crato. Recent heavy rain had made the narrow tracks through the trees and water crossings exceptionally difficult and the terrain was better suited to the more nimble and lighter T3 machines.
Al-Rajhi finished the day in 11th overall, albeit only 1min 38.9sec off the outright lead, while Barbosa, Barreto and Reis were seventh, 12th and 16th, the latter suffering clutch issues.
Saturday’s action was centred around passes through 184.37km and 189.16km stages, the first beginning in Ponte de Sor and finishing in Coutades, near Portalegre, and the second running between Gáfete and Coutades.
Again, it was very wet and slippery and João Ferreira of Portugal carded the quickest time on a demanding track where Al-Rajhi came home in third place and moved up to a similar position in the overall standings.
Co-driver Gottschalk said: « Very difficult. A lot of water, a lot of slippery places and really dangerous in many places. You go fast in the forest and trees are big are then you have a slippery corner. There were a lot of water crossings and fog on the windscreen. We could not see well in many places. Then my GPS fell off in the middle of the stage. Lots of drama but we made it. »
Al-Rajhi climbed to second and Barbosa moved up to fourth after Al-Attiyah incurred a 20-minute penalty for obstructing Ferreira in the stage.
Al-Rajhi began the last stage 2min 43.4sec adrift of Ferreira and trailed Al-Attiyah by 1min 38.7sec. But weather conditions determined that the stage would be shortened to 126.90km on safety grounds to finish close to Torre das Vargens. The Saudi held on to confirm second overall but Barbosa slipped back to seventh. When Al-Attiyah lodged a protest against the penalties on Saturday evening, two of the three were dropped and Barbosa dropped another place to eighth, only to be promoted to seventh again when a T3 rival was disqualified for a technical infringement.
The FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas reaches its conclusion in Dubai on November 10th-12th.
37th Baja Portalegre 500 – final result
1. João Ferreira (PRT)/Filipe Palmeiro (PRT) Mini JCW Rally Plus, 4hr 54min 16.3sec
2. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Timo Gottschalk (DEU) Toyota Hilux Overdrive, 4hr 56min 37.9sec
3. João Dias (PRT)/João Miranda (PRT) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3), 4hr 56min 55.4sec
4. Armindo Araújo (PRT)/Luis Ramalho (PRT) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3), 4hr 57min 29.3sec
5. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Mathieu Baumel (AND) BRX Prodrive Hunter, 4hr 58min 42.8sec
6. Adam Thomelius (SWE)/Oscar Andersson (SWE) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3), 5hr 00min 30.4sec
7. Miguel Barbosa (PRT)/Paulo Fiúza (PRT) Toyota Hilux, 5hr 01min 58.8sec
8. Mattias Ekström (SWE)/François Cazalet (FRA) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3), 5hr 04min 54.6sec
9. Cristiano de Sousa Batista (BRA)/Robledo Nicoletti (BRA) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo (T4), 5hr 07min 36.2sec
10. Pedro Carvalho (PRT)/Romeu Martins (PRT) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3), 5hr 08min 07.5sec
11. Meshari Al-Thefiri (KWT)/Oriol Vidal (ESP) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3), 5hr 12min 35.1sec
12. Alexandre Ré (PRT)/João Pedro Ré (PRT) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3), 5hr 16min 47.9sec
13. Paulo Rodrigues (PRT)/Miguel António (PRT) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3), 5hr 17min 43.9sec
14. Alexandre Franco (PRT)/Rui Franco (PRT) Mercedes 350 D (T1), 5hr 18min 21.8sec
15. Nuno Madeira (PRT)/José Janela (PRT) Ford Ranger (T1), 5hr 19min 26.0sec
31. Francisco Barata Barreto (PRT)/Carlos Silva (PRT) Toyota Hilux, 6hr 21min 52.5sec
Tiago Reis (PRT)/Valter Cardosa (PRT) Toyota Hilux RETIRED
T1+ unless stated