Polish veteran Krzysztof Holowczyc and co-driver Lukasz Kurzeja won three special stages on their way to a 36.5-second victory in the Hungarian Baja, the third round of the 2023 FIA European Cup for Cross-Country Bajas.
The result enabled the BMW X3 crew to gain the lead in both the Drivers’ and Co-drivers’ Championships and seal a second win on the Várpalota-based event to add to the success they achieved in a Mini in 2021.
Holowczyc said: “It was a good rally and never easy. We knew that half of the last stage was very fast, a rally stage, and we were pushing completely to the limit. We found nearly a 1min 20sec gap to De Mevius but we knew the bumpy section would be slow. It was bad. The gearbox blocked completely and we stopped and restarted the engine. We managed to find a gear and restarted. It was a scare just to keep the old car together, Finally, we finished and I am so happy!”
The Belgian crew of Ghislain de Mevius and Johan Jalet guided their G Rally Team OT3 to a superb second overall and a comfortable 9min 05.4sec victory in the T3 category for lightweight prototype cross-country vehicles. The result also strengthened the Belgian’s lead in the T3 Championship, saw him move up to an unofficial second in the overall Drivers’ Championship and extended the G Rally Team’s lead in the Teams’ Championship.
Michal Maluszyński and Julita Maluszyńska missed out on second place to De Mevius on the final stage but the Polish crew’s consolation was the final step of the podium in their X-raid Mini JCW Rally Plus.
Miroslav Zapletal and Marek Sykora finished fourth in the Czech driver’s self-built Offroadsport Ford F150 Evo+ and T3 runners-up, João Dias and João Miranda, rounded off the top five in their Santag Racing Can-Am Maverick X3.
Amerigo Ventura and Mirko Brun continued their impressive run of recent form to finish seventh behind the sixth-placed Toyota Hilux of Wlodzimierz Grazek and Michal Goleniewski to seal a comfortable victory in the FIA T4 category in a Quaddy Racing Yamaha YXZ 1000R.
Ventura said: “We arrived at the end with the car in one piece and we have the win in T4. We feel very destroyed because the stages were so rough. But we are so happy to finish such a hard race.”
Pau Navarro and Pol Ros finished a distant second in T4 and 13th overall in their FN Speed Team Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo and closed the gap on fellow Spaniards, Fidel Castillo and Miguel Valero Chulia, in the title race. The Restless Racing Team’s Artem Kompan and Andrii Solopov finished third.
Alessandro and Marco Bellini Trivini arrived in Hungary with a four-point cushion over Fernando Barreiro in the FIA T2 category for series production cross-country machines and the Italian duo extended that advantage with victory in their Mitsubishi Pajero DID. Barreiro and David Monteiro finished second.
Thirty-three crews were permitted to start the event, consisting of five T1+ cars, six T1, 11 T3, nine T4 and two T2 machines.
Polish drivers managed a clean sweep of the podium places on the 9.47km Prologue stage, with Maluszyński guiding his Mini JCW Rally Plus to the fastest time by 4.7 seconds from Grazek. Holowczyc came home in third, while T3 and T4 bragging rights went to João Dias and Fidel Castillo, respectively.
Last year’s event winner Benediktas Vanagas retired his Toyota Hilux after the Prologue. The Lithuanian said: “We had a puncture at the beginning of the stage and we completed the stage which, looking back, was probably not the right decision. We lost a lot of time and we fixed the car in the service park, but, coming into the parc fermé, the rear differential started to make a strange noise and there was no sense to continue the race.”
Action on the opening day continued with two runs through combined selective sections of 52.67km and 57.99km.
Holowczyc was the man to beat on the opener and the BMW driver won the stage by 1min 02.6sec to move 55.7 seconds ahead of Maluszyński. Zapletal, T3 leader Dias and rival De Mevius were third, fourth and fifth and held similar positions in the overall standings. Ventura headed Navarro by 4.6 seconds in the T4 battle. Austrian Christof Danner retired his Puch 320 G E55 in the stage.
Maluszyński won the second stage from De Mevius but a two-minute penalty for speeding prevented the Pole from taking the outright lead after Holowczyc dropped three minutes with a puncture and jack issues and slipped to fourth overall. Zapletal was the main beneficiary and the Czech veteran reached the night halt with a lead of just 4.5 seconds in his Ford F150 Evo+.
De Mevius moved into a 3min 43.7sec advantage over Dias in T3 and Ventura increased his T4 cushion over Navarro to 1min 30.8sec. Lithuania’s Egidijus Valeiša withdrew his SRT Can-Am at the end of the day.
Holowczyc bounced back with the quickest time on Saturday’s opening stage that was made up of two sections of 54.14km and 62.62km. He reduced Maluszyński’s lead to 10.4 seconds.
De Mevius climbed above Zapletal into third place and increased his T3 advantage over Dias to 6min 27.3sec. Delays for Navarro enabled Ventura to pull 15min 08.6sec clear in T4 heading to the repeat run through the stage in the afternoon. Pole Piotr Otko retired his T3 Can-Am in the special.
A fastest time on the final stage enabled Holowczyc to seal outright victory and De Mevius overhauled Maluszyński with the second quickest time to snatch the runner-up spot.
The FIA European Cup for Cross-Country Bajas continues with the Baja TT Sharish Reguengos Mourão in Portugal on September 22nd-24th.
20th Hungarian Baja – final result (top 15):
1. Krzysztof Holowczyc (POL)/Lukasz Kurzeja (POL) BMW X3 5hr 19min 34.4sec
2. Ghislain de Mevius (BEL)/Johan Jalet (BEL) G Rally Team OT3 (T3) 5hr 20min 10.9sec
3. Michal Maluszyński (POL)/Julita Maluszyńska (POL) Mini JCW Rally Plus 5hr 21min 04.1sec
4. Miroslav Zapletal (CZE)/Marek Sykora (SVK) Ford F150 Evo+ 5hr 23min 33.1sec
5. João Dias (PRT)/João Miranda (PRT) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3) 5hr 29min 16.3sec
6. Wlodzimierz Gracyk (POL)/Michal Goleniewski (POL) Toyota Hilux 5hr 30min 52.3sec
7. Amerigo Ventura (ITA)/Mirko Brun (ITA) Yamaha YXZ 1000 R (T4) 5hr 39min 41.6sec
8. Adam Kus (POL)/Maciej Marton (POL) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3) 5hr 41min 56.1sec
9. Karel Trneny (CZE)/Vaclav Pritzl (CZE) Ford F150 Evo+ 5hr 48min 24.3sec
10. Csaba Miklós (HUN)/Albert Horn (HUN) Bedu Pro X3 (T3) 5hr 53min 43.8sec
11. Paulo Rodrigues (PRT)/Miguel Salvador (PRT) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3) 5hr 58min 01.7sec
12. Fernando Alvarez (ESP)/Xavier Panseri (FRA) GRally Team OT3 (T3) 5hr 59min 53.7sec
13. Pau Navarro (ESP)/Pol Ros (ESP) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T4) 6hr 00min 11.2sec
14. Slawomir Wasiak (POL)/Rafal Jedrys (POL) Ford Ranger 6hr 03min 27.0sec
15. Frantisek Brutovsky (CZE)/Petr Hauptmann (CZE) Ford F150 Evo 6hr 19min 08.7sec
T1+ or T1 unless stated