HOLOWCZYC EARNS 8TH BAJA POLAND WIN
Polish veteran Krzyzstof Holowczyc and co-driver Lukasz Kurzeja dominated Columna Medica Baja Poland, winning all five timed sections on the three-day event, to seal victory in their X-raid built Mini John Cooper Works Rally by the huge margin of 17min 59.5sec.
The former FIA European Rally Champion duly earned his eighth victory on the Szczecin-based
fifth round of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas and the final event in the FIA European Cup for Cross-Country Bajas, while his co-driver earned win number four and sealed the FIA European Cup’s Co-drivers’ title.
“It is a great feeling to win the rally,” said Kurzeja. “I also confirmed the Co-driver title in the FIA European Cup and am delighted to win for the fourth time. It was difficult but the pressure on us really came down when Yazeed (Al-Rajhi) burned the car. Our gap for the rest of the competitors was very big. It’s a shame he did not finish the rally.”
Fellow countryman Michal Maluszyński arrived in Szczecin with a three-point cushion over Portugal’s João Ferreira in the battle for the FIA European Cup Drivers’ title. Ferreira and co-driver David Monteiro managed to pip the Pole and his wife Julita to the runner-up spot by 54.9 seconds, as X-raid-built Minis claimed all three places on the podium. The result also meant that Ferreira clinched the FIA European Cup Drivers’ Championship by four points.
Ferreira said: “We are really happy about this result. It was a tough battle with Michal. Deciding the title here on his own race was very difficult. This race was the most difficult of the calendar. To try and beat Michal here was not easy. We did our maximum. Now we have to focus and try and win the Portuguese Championship.”
The Energylandia Rally Team’s Marek Goczal and Artur Janda clinched fourth overall, points for first overall in the FIA World Cup Driver’s Championship and a comfortable victory in the FIA T4 section in their South Racing-built Can-Am Maverick.
Czech veteran Miroslav Zapletal again teamed up with Slovakian navigator Marek Sykora and moved four points ahead of Yazeed Al-Rajhi in the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas Drivers’ Championship with fifth place in his Hummer H3 Evo and second of the registered FIA World Cup contenders.
Poland’s Wlodimierz Grajek and co-driver Lukasz Laskawiec were the highest-placed of the Toyota Hilux drivers in sixth and third in the FIA World Cup.
Kuwait’s Meshari Al-Thefiri was gifted some time back by Baja officials late on Sunday evening and moved up to seventh overall and second in T4 as a result. The South Racing Can-Am driver duly moved into the lead in the FIA World Cup’s T4 title race.
Dutchman Kees Koolen, also driving a South Racing Can-Am, did his FIA World Cup T4 title chances the power of good by finishing eighth and third in T4 on his third visit to the region. He earned 24 points and managed to close the gap on the absent Cristiano de Sousa Batista in the rankings.
Quaddy Racing’s Amerigo Ventura pipped local driver Adam Kus to maximum points in the FIA European Cup’s T4 section and rounded off the overall top 10 in his Yamaha YXZ 1000R. He was also confirmed as finishing third overall in the FIA European Cup Driver’s Championship.
Spaniard Fernando Alvarez extended his advantage over South Racing Can-Am Team colleague Dania Akeel to 33 points in the FIA World Cup’s T3 Championship. The duo finished first and second in the category in Poland, with Brazilian Filipe Nascimento rounding off the top three in his PRK Sport Rally Team machine and topping the FIA European Cup’s T3 points.
Polish officials made minor route modifications before the three-day event got underway from the city of Szczecin in north-western Poland on Friday evening.
The competitive distance was reduced from 491.30km to 488.91km by trimming the Qualifying Stage to 5.83km, taking six kilometres of competitive distance off both runs through the Drawsko Pomorskie military proving grounds (210.84km) and extending both of the shorter Sunday selective sections between Wolczkowo and Dobra to 30.70km apiece.
Holowczyc drew first blood amongst the FIA European Cup’s registered drivers with the fastest time of 4min 48.5sec through the Qualifying Stage. That put the Pole 1.4 seconds ahead of Benediktas Vanagas and 7.7 in front of Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi, who led the FIA World Cup contenders.
Holowczyc increased his advantage over Al-Rajhi to 2min 09.1sec with the fastest time through the first of the longer selective sections and stormed clear of FIA European Cup rivals, Ferreira and Maluszyński, with the title-chasing duo separated by 38.9 seconds. Vanagas, driving a Toyota Gazoo Racing Baltics-run Hilux, was side-lined with drive shaft issues and lost his slim chance of snatching the FIA European Cup title from Ferreira and Maluszyński.
Al-Rajhi’s challenge for maximum FIA World Cup points ended abruptly in the third stage, when his Toyota Hilux became engulfed in fire and was completely destroyed in the incident.
Baja officials duly reduced the length of the second run through to Drawsko Pomorskie to 138.62km as a result of the time delay.
Holowczyc was fastest again and reached the night halt with a lead of 14min 32.8sec over Ferreira, with Maluszyński in third and the T4-leading Michal Goczal in fourth overall.
“The first of the longer stages was good, no problem at all,” said Holowczyc. “It was a very dusty time. I never remember the rally when it was dusty like that. Inside the car the visibility was not so good. We won both stages. When Al-Rajhi had a problem with the fire, we were also leading. We saw the black smoke. We have a big advantage, so we just drive.”
Holowczyc extended his cushion to 15min 47.8sec after the first of two passes through the 30.70km stage between Wolczkowo and Dobra, where Maluszyński beat Ferreira by 7.5 seconds as the battle waged for the FIA European Cup title.
The veteran secured victory by beating Ferreira by 40.7 seconds in the last special to wrap up Baja Poland win number eight.
With the FIA European Cup for Cross-Country Bajas now concluded, attention switches to round six of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas in Portugal at the end of October.
Columna Medica Baja Poland – final results:
1. Krzysztof Holowczyc (POL)/Lukasz Kurzeja (POL) Mini JCW Rally 4hr 31min 45.3sec *
2. João Ferreira (PRT)/David Monteiro (PRT) Mini JCW Rally 4hr 49min 44.8sec *
3. Michal Maluszyński (POL)/Julita Maluszyńska (POL) Mini JCW Rally 4hr 50min 39.7sec *
4. Marek Goczal (POL)/Artur Janda (POL) Can-Am Maverick XRS (T4) 5hr 02min 48.9sec
5. Miroslav Zapletal (CZE)/Marek Sykora (SVK) Hummer H3 Evo 5hr 04min 37.4sec
6. Wlodzimierz Grajek (POL)/Lukasz Laskawiec (POL) Toyota Hilux 5hr 05min 32.3sec
7. Meshari Al-Thefiri (KWT)/Oriol Vidal (ESP) Can-Am Maverick XRS (T4) 5hr 12min 20.8sec
8. Kees Koolen (NLD)/Paolo Ceci (ITA) Can-Am Maverick XRS (T4) 5hr 13min 30.8sec
9. Fernando Alvarez (ESP)/Xavier Panseri (FRA) Can-Am Maverick XRS (T3) 5hr 14min 38.4sec
10. Amerigo Ventura (ITA)/Mirko Brun (ITA) Yamaha YXZ 1000R (T4) 5hr 20min 16.7sec *
11. Adam Kus (POL)/Marcin Pasek (POL) Can-Am Maverick XRS (T4) 5hr 25min 51.4sec *
12. Eduard Pons (ESP)/Monica Plaza Vasquez (ESP) Can-Am Maverick XRS (T4) 5hr 29min 44.0sec, etc
* denotes registered for FIA European Cup points only