CROSS-COUNTRY – CONTENDERS VYING FOR CRUCIAL POINTS MID-SEASON
The third round of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas takes the contenders to the east of central Portugal for Baja Portalegre 500 (November 5-7). Ever popular, the FIA event has attracted no fewer than 44 entries for its 34th edition with a host of contenders in four categories.
Vladimir Vasilyev, with a new co-driver in Dmitro Tsyro, tops the provisional entry list and the Russian heads the series standings by just 1.5 points. For the first time this season, he will be competing in a Mini Cooper Countryman and will doubtless be hoping for better luck in Portugal, having dropped out of contention last year with a broken driveshaft on the final day.
Bernhard Ten Brinke and Tom Colsoul return to action after their fine second position on the previous round in Poland. The Dutch/Belgian pairing, who currently lay fourth in the series, will be competing in one of two Toyota Hilux Overdrive cars. Their team-mates will be flying the flag for Portugal: Miguel Barbosa, a three time winner on his home round, will be partnered by Pedro Velosa. The duo were front-runners again last year until they dropped time off the route and then sacrificed any hopes of a fourth victory by towing the stricken Vasilyev back to the sanctuary of service for repairs.
2018 Portuguese Off-Road Champion João Ramos, co-driven by Filipe Palmeiro, will be fielding a Toyota Hilux. The Portuguese driver dropped time last year with mechanical problems so will be looking for a trouble-free run on his home event. Paulo Rui Ferreira and Jorge Monteiro finished a fine third on the event in 2018, and cross-country rallying brothers Ricardo and Manuel Porém could also be in the fight for a top result in their Borgward, Ricardo having taken top honours four times, once with Manuel in 2014.
Five crews will be fighting it out in T2 with another six contenders in the highly-competitive T3 Group. Russian Vasily Gryazin currently leads the series, having taken victory on the previous round in Poland with co-driver Oleg Uperenko. The Can-Am Maverick X3 driver heads Bernd Hans Hoffmann by five points, the German in similar Can-Am machinery. In T4, Aron Domzala tops the standings thanks to victory on his home round in Poland, and while his nearest contender is not competing in Portugal, third-placed Kees Koolen will be looking to close the 11 point gap.