Portugal’s João Días wins T3 category; T4 success for Jerôme de Sadeleer
Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah, Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Brazil’s Lucas Moraes secured first, second and third overall for Overdrive Racing and Toyota at the 2022 Baja Spain Aragón, round four of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas.
Al-Attiyah and co-driver Mathieu Baumel won the opening two selective sections through the remote countryside of the Aragón region of central Spain and a third quickest time on the final stage was sufficient for the FIA World Rally Raid Championship (W2RC) front-runner and four-time Dakar Rally winner to secure victory in his latest specification Toyota Gazoo Racing Hilux by 3min 02sec. The success was his fifth on the event since 2008.
Al-Attiyah said: “We finish and I am quite happy to win here for the fifth time. It was a good win this year. Thanks to the organisation for making an amazing job. It was not easy to win. We work hard. The road was not easy and the level what we did here was very high. The new car, T1+, we are working very hard. This was the first time we run here in Europe. We need to test more and more now that the team has decided to do the whole championship. The next race for us is Poland, but we intend to be ready for next Dakar.”
Al-Rajhi teamed up with co-driver Michael Orr and the Saudi followed up his Italian Baja success with second overall that gives him a comfortable outright lead in the FIA Bajas Drivers’ Championship at the half-way point after four rounds. The Saudi won the final stage to finish 2min 23.7sec ahead of Brazilian team-mate Lucas Moraes and his co-driver Kaique Bentivoglio.
Orr said: “It was a nice final stage. We pushed from the start and we won the stage to keep our second position. It was a tough race with rough terrain and temperatures were very high. It was tough on the car and for the body. But everything was under control for us.”
The PRK Sport Rally Team duo of Daniel Alonso and Alejandro Lopez finished fourth in a Ford Ranger and Spain’s Luis Recuenco and Sergio Peinado rounded off the top five in the first of the X-raid Mini John Cooper Works Rally machines.
Thirty-six cars had been entered in the T3 lightweight prototype category on the Teruel-based event. Portugal’s João Días overcame an overnight deficit of 1min 04.9sec to overhaul Spanish WRC star Dani Sordo and snatch the class win and a superb sixth overall. The Can-Am privateer and co-driver João Miranda secured the win by the margin of 2min 13.1sec, despite the last stage win falling to Guillaume de Mevius in a G Rally Team OT3.
Sordo came home second in T3 and eighth overall and late entry Cristina Gutierrez rounded off the podium places and finished 10th, but was not eligible for championship points.
Santiago Carnicer and Miguel Lazaro guided the second of the PRK Sport Ford Rangers to seventh place and Alejandro Martins slotted into ninth with José Marques in the second of the X-raid Minis.
Cristiano de Sousa Batista arrived in Spain trailing South Racing Can-Am team mate Kees Koolen by two points in the FIA Baja T4 points’ standings. The Brazilian missed out on the class win in Spain by 15.7 seconds but moved into an unofficial 10-point championship lead, despite a puncture on the last stage.
Jerôme de Sadeleer and Dutch co-driver Wouter Rosegaar won the final stage by 50.4 seconds and that was sufficient to overhaul de Sousa Batista and take the win. Kuwait’s Meshari Al-Thefiri teamed up with Qatar’s Nasser Al-Kuwari to finish third and moved into second place in the title race.
T4 winner de Sadeleer said: “I raced here last year. It was my first rally ever and we finished in P3. Then we went on the Dakar and gained a lot of experience. We came back to Baja Aragón to try and win. We did and it was great. We were patient on stage one, made a few mistakes, but came out third. The terrain on the second stage was easier and we managed to get up to P2. Today, we had nothing to lose and we gave it everything and managed to win.”
The South Racing Can-Am Team duo of Fernando Alvarez and Saudi female driver Dania Akeel held first and second in the T3 Championship before the weekend but, despite finishing the event in 12th and 13th positions in T3, the duo continue to front the title race and picked up valuable championship points.
Slight modifications were made to the final route and competitors faced two revised selective sections of 180.29km and 222.13km on Saturday, with high temperatures and hanging dust making the on-stage conditions even more difficult.
Vanina Ickx (OT3) and Miguel Casaca (Volkswagen) were the first retirements on a stage where W2RC pace-setter Al-Attiyah claimed the fastest time and stormed into a lead of 1min 34.9sec over team-mate Al-Rajhi. Juan Cruz Yacopini was awarded a stage maximum time penalty after fuel pump issues, as Toyota team-mate Lucas Moraes held off the X-raid Minis of Sebastien Halpern and João Ferreira to snatch third place.
João Dias and Miguel Prat set the quickest times in the T3 and T4 categories, while de Sousa Batista was the fastest of the registered T4 Championship contenders in his Can-Am.
The second of the day’s selective sections again saw Al-Attiyah record the fastest time and the Qatari reached the night halt in Teruel with a lead of 5min 00.1sec over Al-Rajhi. Moraes retained third overall but Polish veteran Krzysztof Holowczyc lost over an hour to his rivals and Erik van Loon flooded his Toyota’s engine in a muddy water splash and plummeted to 62nd overall.
WRC star Sordo claimed the T3 stage win and moved into the category lead and ninth overall, while title contender de Sousa Batista snatched T4 stage success from de Sadeleer and moved 34.7 seconds ahead.
The third selective was also modified and ran for 159.88km. A fastest time for Al-Rajhi secured the runner-up spot, but Al-Attiyah stayed clear of trouble after opening the road and finished behind Moraes to secure the outright victory.
João Ferreira (Mini) and Felix Macias (Toyota) were two of the major retirements on the final morning, while on-stage delays cost Halpern valuable minutes and he slipped down the rankings before retiring. Polish veteran Krzysztof Holowczyc also retired his Mini on the final morning but Yacopini and Van Loon recovered to finish 52nd and 54th overall.
Action in the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas continues at Baja Poland on September 1st-4th.
Baja Spain Aragón – final results:
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Mathieu Baumel (FRA) Toyota GR DKR Hilux 7hr 20min 43.9sec
2. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Michael Orr (GBR) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 7hr 23min 45.9sec
3. Lucas Moraes (BRA)/Kaique Bentivoglio (BRA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 7hr 26min 09.6sec
4. Daniel Alonso (ESP)/Alejandro Lopez (ESP) Ford Ranger 7hr 45min 53.6sec
5. Luis Recuenco (ESP)/Sergio Peinado (ESP) Mini JCW Rally 7hr 49min 03.1sec
6. João Días (PRT)/João Miranda (PRT) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3) 7hr 55min 50.0sec
7. Santiago Carnicer (ESP)/Miguel Lazaro (ESP) Ford Ranger 7hr 57min 46.5sec
8. Dani Sordo (ESP)/Candido Carrera (ESP) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3) 7hr 58min 03.1sec
9. Alejandro Martins (PRT)/José Marques (PRT) Mini JCW Rally 7hr 58min 56.0sec
10. Cristina Gutierrez (ESP)/Pablo Moreno (ESP) G Rally Team OT3 (T3) 8hr 00min 13.1sec
2022 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas – positions after round 4 of 8 (unofficial):
1. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU) 84pts
2. Miroslav Zapletal (CZE) 57pts
3. Saleh Al-Saif (SAU) 45pts
4. Fernando Alvarez (ESP) 41pts
5. Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS) 40pts
5. Kees Koolen (NLD) 40pts
7. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT) 38pts
8. Cristiano de Sousa Batista (BRA) 36pts
1. Fernando Alvarez (ESP) 92pts
2. Dania Akeel (SAU) 67pts
3. Saleh Al-Saif (SAU) 56pts
4. Pavel Silnov (RUS) 47pts
5. Erik van Loon (NLD) 40pts
6. João Días (PRT) 38pts
1. Cristiano de Sousa Batista (BRA) 95pts
2. Meshari Al-Thefiri (KWT) 85pts
3. Kees Koolen (NLD) 66pts
4. Eduard Pons (ESP) 55pts
5. Egidijus Valeiša (LTU) 46pts
6. Sergei Remmenik (RUS) 40pts