João Ferreira & David Monteiro win Baja Portalegre 500

João Ferreira & David Monteiro win Baja Portalegre 500

Talented Portuguese driver João Ferreira and co-driver David Monteiro delivered a stunning performance over the final stage of a gruelling Baja Portalegre 500 to snatch a 21.7-second victory in their X-raid Mini John Cooper Works Rally.

The recently-crowned FIA European Cup for Cross-Country Bajas champion began the last stage in second place behind Saudi Arabian driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi. When his Toyota rival ground to a halt with an alternator belt failure shortly after the start of the 204.66km finale, Ferreira became embroiled in a thrilling duel with fellow countryman João Dias for outright victory.

Dias and his co-driver João Miranda were able to negotiate the early sections of the wet and slippery stage impressively in their nimble T3 Can-Am Maverick X3, but Ferreira pushed hard in drier conditions over the closing kilometres to snatch a dramatic and hard-earned win.

Ferreira said: “It was a tough day but Yazeed Al-Rajhi had a problem at km6 and stopped, so we started dreaming of the victory. But the Portuguese drivers in the Can-Ams were incredibly fast and we had to follow them in the rain in the muddy conditions. The last part of the event was very dry and we pushed the maximum I could and we finally won the battle. It was the final participation of the year for me and I am really happy. After the accident I had in Andalucia, X-raid gave me this car but I had to get my confidence back and drive fast. All the weekend, we were quite fast and we learned a lot from that recent crash.” 

Dias’s consolation was a sensational second overall and a T3 winning margin of over four minutes from Luís Portela de Morais and Tomás Dantas, who finished on the third step of the podium in their OT3. 

With Al-Rajhi and his German co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz managing to replace the damaged alternator belt on the Overdrive Racing Toyota Hilux and reach the finish out of the points in 26th place, the absence of Czech driver Miroslav Zapletal has kept the overall Drivers’ Championship wide open with two rounds remaining. 

The Toyota Hilux crew of Tiago Reis and Valter Cardosa finished over 10 minutes behind Portela in fourth place and T4 category winner Cristiano de Sousa Batista and co-driver Fauto Mota rounded off the top five in the leading South Racing Can-Am Team Maverick. 

A pair of Ford Rangers in the hands of the Portuguese pairings of Francisco Barreto/Carlos Silva and Nuno Madeira/José Janela were classified in sixth and seventh overall. Portugal’s Lourenço Rosa teamed up with Joaquim Dias in the second of the latest T1+ specification Overdrive Racing Toyotas to finish eighth after Rosa lost time on stage three with power steering issues. 

Fernando Alvarez came into the weekend’s action with a 33-point cushion over Dania Akeel in the FIA T3 Drivers’ Championship, but both the Spaniard and the Saudi came up against a wall of strong local competition in Portugal. Portela, former WRC rally star Armindo Araújo and Dias were the pace-setters on the Qualifying Stage and Dias hit the front after the opening stage to take a 5.3-second advantage over Portela into the night halt. 

Alvarez, Akeel and Pau Navarro, were classified in seventh, 11th and fifth, although Araújo retired at the start of stage three and was joined on the list of retirements by last year’s FIA World Cup T4 champion Alexandre Ré, who had been running in third. Alvarez extended his T3 lead over Akeel in the championship by eventually finishing a distant third behind Dias and Portela. 

The South Racing Can-Am Team’s Meshari Al-Thefiri needed a strong performance to extend his 21-point lead in the FIA T4 Drivers’ Championship. The Kuwaiti led the category by 22.7 seconds from Lithuania’s Egidijus Valeiša (SRT Can-Am Maverick) at the night halt, with De Sousa Batista down in fourth.

However, De Sousa Batista battled hard in the rain and managed to close the gap on the Kuwaiti with T4 victory. Al-Thefiri made it a 1-2 finish for the South Racing Can-Am Team and finished ninth in the overall classification. Poland’s Tomasz Bialkowski was third in T4 and rounded off the top 10 in a Polaris.

João Ramos and Filipe Palmeiro had finished sixth on the Qualifying Stage in their Toyota Hilux and started the second stage from third on the road. But their Toyota Hilux ingested water in a deep water crossing and the Portuguese crew were sidelined. 

Czech Petr Hozák and Spaniard Luis Recuenco also retired their Minis on the second stage and Portugal’s Alejandro Martins crashed his Mini heavily out of the running in stage three. 

Four-time event winner Ricardo Porém retired his Volkswagen Amarok in the last stage and Brazil’s Guillaume Spinelli also lost out on a top 10 finish in SS4. 

Dutchman Michel Kremer was not authorised to start the FIA event in a Century Racing CR6 because of licence eligibility issues. 

Action in the 2022 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas continues with the Ha’il International Baja event in Saudi Arabia on November 10-12.

36th Baja Portalegre 500 – Final results:

1. João Ferreira (PRT)/David Monteiro (PRT) Mini JCW Rally     5hr 43min 56.6sec
2. João Dias (PRT)/João Miranda (PRT) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3)    5hr 44min 18.3sec
3. Luís Portela de Morais (PRT)/Tomás Dantas (PRT) OT3 (T3)    5hr 48min 28.2sec
4. Tiago Reis (PRT)/Valter Cardosa (PRT) Toyota Hilux    5hr 58min 27.5sec
5. Cristiano Batista (BRA)/Fauto Mota (PRT) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR (T4)    6hr 00min 26.0sec 
6. Francisco Barreto (PRT)/Carlos Silva (PRT) Ford Ranger     6hr 03min 24.0sec
7. Nuno Madeira (PRT)/José Janela (PRT) Ford Ranger     6hr 06min 23.6sec
8. Lourenço Rosa (PRT)/Joaquim Dias (PRT) Toyota Hilux Overdrive    6hr 08min 57.6sec 
9. Meshari Al-Thefiri (KWT)/Oriol Vidal (ESP) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR (T4)    6hr 11min 27.3sec 
10 Tomasz Bialkowski (POL)/Dariusz Baskiewicz (POL) Polaris RZR Pro XP (T4)    6hr 12min 03.5sec

*T1 unless stated     

Image: João Ferreira (PRT)/David Monteiro (PRT), Mini JCW Rally (photo: event organiser)

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