Round 4/5 of the FIA European Cup for Cross-Country Bajas
Image: Benediktas Vanagas (LTU)/Kuldar Sikk (EST), Toyota Hilux (photo: event oragniser)
Lithuanian driver Benediktas Vanagas and his Estonian co-driver Kuldar Sikk won four of the five stages to secure a comfortable 8min 37.7sec victory in the 19th Hungarian Baja, the fourth and penultimate round of the 2022 FIA European Cup for Cross-Country Bajas.
This was the Toyota Gazoo Racing Baltics driver’s first appearance in the Várpalota-based event. He followed up the fastest run through the opening 9.47km Qualifying Stage to set fastest times on the opening two selective sections of 137.96km apiece, before adding a fastest time on the second of two passes through Sunday’s 66.22km selective that ran between Gyulafirátót and Várpalota.
Vanagas said: “Saturday was the main day. It was a reasonable Dakar day and the stages were really technical. You had to be focused to drive fast. We were lucky to win both the stages and that gave us a comfortable lead. The car was great except for one slow puncture towards the end of the last stage on Saturday.”
Co-driver Sikk added: “There was a small rain in the night and we thought there may be some damp places on Sunday. But, actually, the road was still dusty and the weather was hot again. We took it easy and didn’t push too much to bring the car safely home.”
The priority for the Portuguese pairing of João Ferreira and David Monteiro was to amass as many championship points as possible and the Mini John Cooper Works Rally crew won the fourth stage and recorded three second fastest times on their way to a provisional second place after the last stage. The result initially enabled Ferreira to extend his lead over Michal Maluszyński in the Driver’s Championship, after the Pole came home third with Lukasz Kureja in a second X-raid-built Mini.
But Ferreira had swapped two wheels around on the left-hand side of the car in front of Baja officials in a Parc Fermé area. The Stewards of the Meeting later imposed a three-minute time penalty on the Portuguese and that dropped him to third in the rankings behind his title rival. Maluszyński will now take an unofficial three-point lead into the final round of the championship next month.
Ferreira said: “We now have to go to Poland and try and win the European Championship. Today’s stage was part of the route we used yesterday, but run in the opposite way. It was difficult, tricky and very slippery. We managed to win the first one and then Benediktas won the second one.”
Maluszyński added: “It was an interesting race for me. The route was very different, with faster parts and slow parts and many holes. It was completely different to Poland and Italy but we are happy to finish now in second position.”
Czech Miroslav Zapletal teamed up with Slovakian co-driver Marek Sykora to finish fourth in a self-built Hummer H3. Quaddy Racing’s Italian pairing of Amerigo Ventura and Mirko Brun rounded off the top five, won the FIA T4 category in their Yamaha YXZ 1000 R and the driver moved into an unassailable lead in the T4 championship, while the Czech duo of Zdeněk Pořízek and Pavel Vaculík finished sixth in a Ford F150 Evo.
Santiago Navarro maintained his outside chance of claiming the overall Driver’s Championship with seventh overall and first in the T3 category, the success marking the Spaniard’s fourth successive win with an FN Speed Team Can-Am Maverick X3 in the competitive section for lightweight prototype machines.
František Brutovsky and Petr Hauptmann claimed eighth in the second of the F150 Fords and Navarros’s team-mates, Jordi Segura and Sergi Brugué, were second in T3 and finished ninth. German privateer Bernt Hoffmann teamed up with Italy’s Juan Carlos Carignani to round off the top 10 and claim third in T3.
Six of the 21 starters in the FIA category retired: Poland’s Tomasz Bialkowski had been seventh quickest on the Qualifying Stage before withdrawing his Polaris in the first selective section, while local driver Luka Csucsu retired the Speedy Motorsport Toyota Hilux on the second stage on Saturday.
Title challenger Pedro Dias da Silva (Volkswagen) was forced out on the first of Sunday’s stages and Edgar Condenso (Ford), Pál Lónyai (Porsche) and Michael Braun (Ford) failed to start the final day after incurring hefty time penalties on Saturday.
The final round of the FIA European Cup for Cross-Country Bajas takes place in Poland on September 1-4.
19th Hungarian Baja – Final unofficial results:
1. Benediktas Vanagas (LTU)/Kuldar Sikk (EST) Toyota Hilux 4hr 43min 16.7sec
2. Michal Maluszyński (POL)/Lukasz Kurzeja (POL) Mini JCW Rally 4hr 51min 54.4sec
3. João Ferreira (PRT)/David Monteiro (PRT) Mini JCW Rally 4hr 52min 05.9sec
4. Miroslav Zapletal (CZE)/Marek Sykora (SVK) Hummer H3 Evo 5hr 08min 13.0sec
5. Amerigo Ventura (ITA)/Mirko Brun (ITA) Yamaha YXZ 1000 R (T4) 5hr 25min 24.3sec
6. Zdeněk Pořízek (CZE)/Pavel Vaculík (CZE) Ford F150 5hr 26min 45.3sec
7. Santiago Navarro (ESP)/Marc Sola (ESP) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3) 5hr 32min 07.8sec
8. František Brutovsky (CZE)/Petr Hauptmann (CZE) Ford F150 Evo 5hr 38min 01.9sec
9. Jordi Segura (ESP)/Sergei Brugué (ESP) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3) 5hr 48min 45.4sec
10. Bernt Hoffmann (DEU)/Juan Carlos Carignani (ITA) Can-Am X3 Turbo (T3) 5hr 50min 58.2sec
11. Christof Danner (AUT)/Herwig Rieger (AUT) Puch 46/G320 6hr 33min 25.1sec
12. Ricardo Ramilo Suarez (ESP)/Pedro Santos (PRT) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3) 9hr 56min 34.9sec
13. Lina van der Mars (DEU)/Giulia Maroni (ITA) Polaris Pro XP Turbo (T4) 11hr 31min 36.0sec
14. Filipe Nascimento (PRT)/João Serodio (PRT) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3) 24hr 15min 28.7sec
15. Adam Kus (POL)/Marcin Pasek (POL) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T4) 45hr 29min 22.3sec
2022 FIA European Cup for Cross-Country Bajas – Positions after round 4 of 5 (unofficial) - Drivers:
1. Michal Maluszyński (POL) 88pts
2. João Ferreira (PRT) 85pts
3. Amerigo Ventura (ITA) 67pts
4. Santiago Navarro (ESP) 65pts
5. Pedro da Silva (PRT) 55pts
6. Benediktas Vanagas (LTU) 51pts, etc.