Al-Attiyah & Boulanger take W2RC lead with BP Ultimate Rally-Raid Portugal win

Al-Attiyah & Boulanger take W2RC lead with BP Ultimate Rally-Raid Portugal win

Five-time Dakar Rally winner Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and his co-driver Edouard Boulanger sealed a hard-earned victory at the BP Ultimate Rally-Raid Portugal, the third round of the FIA World Rally-Raid Championship (W2RC), in Grândola on Sunday.

 

The Prodrive Hunter crew had to defend an overnight lead of 2min 41sec over Portugal’s João Ferreira and the second quickest time on the final short stage enabled the Qatari to move 12 points clear of Carlos Sainz in the unofficial FIA World Rally-Raid Championship (W2RC) Drivers’ Championship standings and lift Nasser Racing by Prodrive into contention for the W2RC Manufacturers’ crown.

 

Al-Attiyah, who had a winning margin of 2min 49sec, won two of the demanding and varied stages across rural Portugal on a new event that also crossed into Spain for one special and a night halt in the town of Badajoz and attracted a large number of spectators in inclement weather conditions.

 

Al-Attiyah said: “Portugal is almost my second home. I have a lot of friends here and I’m really happy to win this fantastic race. Thank you to all the fans and thanks to the organisation. It was a very technical race and we had to be smart. After the win in Abu Dhabi, winning here is very important because it enabled us to take the lead in the World Championship.”

 

Ferreira and his co-driver Filipe Palmeiro enjoyed a superb event over home terrain in the first of the latest X-Raid Mini JCW Rally Plus machines and held off Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Lucas Moraes and Armand Monleón to claim the runner-up spot, despite losing the bonnet on the Mini on the final stage.

 

Ferreira said: “It’s difficult to explain the emotions I experienced throughout the week. We received incredible support from this unique audience in the world in a very varied and beautiful race. The tension was high because there was a lot of attention around us, but everything went very well and I confess that I didn’t imagine finishing in second place on my debut with this car in W2RC.”

 

Moraes overhauled Ferreira’s team-mate and four-time Dakar Rally winner Carlos Sainz and his co-driver Alex Haro on the last stage. That pushed the Spaniards down to fourth position, the result also lifting Moraes into contention for a late assault at the W2RC Drivers’ Championship.

 

“What a great fight,” said Moraes. “Firstly, congratulations to the entire organisation for managing to put together this race. It is very important to have the World Cup in Europe. An overall podium and victory in this stage are important points for the championship.”

 

Despite Moraes’s third place and his fastest time on the final stage, it was a disappointing event for Toyota with early season front-runners Guerlain Chicherit and Guillaume de Mévius struggling to make headway and Yazeed Al-Rajhi having to battle his way back to fifth after a crash on stage three. The Saudi’s consolation was moving into third in the title race behind Al-Attiyah and Sainz and three points clear of Moraes.

 

The Brazilian duo of Cristian Baumgart and Gustavo Gugelmin finished seventh overall and picked up vital points for the Manufacturers’ Championship in the second of the Prodrive Hunters. They are registered under the Nasser Racing by Prodrive banner. Portuguese driver Francisco Barreto guided his Toyota Hilux to eighth but is not registered for the W2RC.

 

The second stage ruined Guerlain Chicherit’s chances of claiming victory but the Toyota driver - like team-mate Guillaume De Mévius who suffered brake and alternator woes - then aimed to focus on stage wins for extra W2RC points. The Frenchman lost 10 minutes crossing a ford behind a biker who was stuck and then he clouted a tree stump in a field and tore the lower right suspension triangle off the Hilux. Unfortunately, a second mechanical issue the next day sidelined the Hilux driver under the new Sporting Regulations. De Mévius finished in a lowly 54th, sandwiched between his two Overdrive Racing team-mates, Lionel Baud and Eugenio Amos.

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Saood Variawa had been one of the early pace-setters in the Ultimate category but was penalised for three speeding infractions on day three and the Stewards decided to impose a two-hour penalty on the South African and disqualify him from the event, with the punishment suspended as long as there were no further speeding breaches. Variawa retired in any case with additional mechanical issues.

 

Can-Am Factory Team’s Baciuška and Vidal win Challenger category 

Can-Am Factory Racing’s Rokas Baciuška and his Spanish co-driver Oriol Vidal secured a vital victory in the Challenger category and Rokas extended his lead over team-mate Austin Jones to 34 points in the Challenger standings. The Lithuanian finished in an excellent sixth overall. Jones and Oriol Mena won one stage and were classified fourth of the W2RC entrants. 

 

Armindo Araújo (Can-Am) was not registered for the W2RC but the experienced local driver and former winner of the Rally of Portugal finished second in the Challenger category and in ninth overall.

 

Nicolas Cavigliasso was fourth quickest on the final day and that performance paved the way for the Argentine to push Ricardo Porém (Can-Am) out of the top 10 and earn the Taurus T3M racer third in the Challenger category and second of the registered drivers. He now trails Jones by just five points and holds third in the Challenger points’ standings. Mário Franco (Yamaha) and Dania Akeel (Taurus) finished fifth and sixth of the registered pilots.

 

Nine-time WRC champion Sébastien Loeb and co-driver Fabian Lurquin gained useful experience of the terrain and the event in general in their Red Bull-backed Taurus T3M. Loeb is not registered for the W2RC this year but begins his campaign with the Dacia brand later in the season in preparation for a full programme of events in 2025.

 

The Frenchman, who finished 22nd overall, said: “The special stages here are very good, some are even spectacular. We had a lot of mud and had to adapt to a different car from another category. We achieved the objective of getting to know the race so that we can return here next year with the Dacia.” 

 

Spaniard Cristina Gutiérrez (Red Bull Taurus T3M) won the Challenger category at the Dakar Rally but is not registered for W2RC points. She received penalties on days one and two after technical problems and was forced out of the event before the start of stage three under the Sporting Regulations. Buggyra Racing’s Aliyyah Koloc suffered an engine issue on stage two and also withdrew from the event.

 

South Racing’s Monteiro wins SSV class; Ramilo first of the W2RC runners

The South Racing Can-Am Team duo of João Monteiro and co-driver Nuno Morais won the SSV category and finished 16th overall in their Maverick XRS Turbo RR but were not registered for the W2RC.

 

Spaniard Ricardo Ramilo and his Portuguese co-driver Fausto Moto finished second and first of the W2RC contenders. Santag Racing’s Rui Serpa came home third but runaway W2RC leader Yasir Seaidan retired his Race World Team Can-Am on Saturday. Only Fans Racing’s Rebecca Busi was fifth and second of the registered drivers, with French veteran Claude Fournier coming home in ninth and third in W2RC.

 

Equador’s Sebastian Guayasamin lost chunks of time early in the race but holds second in the SSV standings, 34 points behind Seaidan, with Ramilo slotting into third place.

 

Action in the FIA World Rally-Raid Championship resumes with the Desafío Ruta 40 in Argentina on June 1st-7th.

2024 BP Ultimate Rally-Raid Portugal  – final result (top 20 only):

1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Edouard Boulanger (FRA) Prodrive Hunter    10hr 02min 57sec
2. Joāo Ferreira (PRT)/Filipe Palmeiro (PRT) Mini John Cooper Works Rally Plus    10hr 05min 46sec
3. Lucas Moraes (BRA)/Armand Monleón (ESP) Toyota GR DKR Hilux    10hr 06min 33sec
4. Carlos Sainz (ESP)/Alex Haro (ESP) Mini John Cooper Works Rally Plus    10hr 09min 09sec
5. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Timo Gottschalk (DEU) Toyota Hilux Overdrive    10hr 20min 08sec
6. Rokas Baciuška (LTU)/Oriol Vidal (ESP) Can-Am Maverick X3    10hr 23min 30sec
7. Cristian Baumgart (BRA)/Gustavo Gugelmin (BRA) Prodrive Hunter    10hr 25min 07sec
8. Francisco Barreto (PRT)/Carlos Silva (PRT) Toyota Hilux    10hr 25min 46sec*
9. Armindo Araújo (PRT)/Pedro Ré (PRT) Can-Am Maverick X3    10hr 31min 14sec*
10. Nicolas Cavigliasso (ARG)/Valentia Pertegarini (ARG) Taurus T3Max

10hr 31min 52sec
11. Ricardo Porém (PRT)/Luis Marques (PRT) Can-Am Maverick X3    10hr 33min 10sec
12. Alexandre Pinto (PRT)/Bernardo Oliveira (PRT) Can-Am Maverick X3    10hr 34min 18sec*
13. Austin Jones (USA)/Oriol Mena (ESP) Can-Am Maverick X3    10hr 41min 26sec
14. Juan Cruz Yacopini (ARG)/Daniel Oliveras (ESP) Toyota Hilux Overdrive    10hr 49min 54sec
15. Mário Franco (PRT)/João Serôdio (PRT) Yamaha YXZ 1000R Turbo    10hr 50min 25sec
16. João Monteiro (PRT)/Nuno Morais (PRT) South Racing Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR    10hr 50min 31sec*
17. João Dias (PRT)/João Miranda (PRT) Can-Am Maverick X3    10hr 51min 03sec*
18. Hélder Rodrigues (PRT)/Gonçalo Reis (PRT) Can-Am Maverick X3    10hr 56min 18sec*
19. Ricardo Ramilo (ESP)/Fausto Mota (PRT) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR    11hr 03min 50sec
20. Isidre Esteve Pujol (ESP)/Jose-Maria Villalobos (ESP) Toyota Hilux Overdrive     11hr 04min 32sec*
*denotes not registered for W2RC


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