Hélder Oliveira, João Ramos, Tiago Reis and Pedro Ferreira will be fighting for the National Off-Road Championship title, while Jose Campo and Santiago Navarro will be aiming for the T3 World Cup crown. In Motorcycles, the Championship can be decided between António Maio and Mário Patrão, while João Monteiro take the SSV title.
However, there are two names that stand out from the others. Last-minute entries by the X-Raid will allow the participation of two of the greatest Cross Country drivers: Stéphane Peterhansel and Nani Roma.
For "Mr. Dakar" it will be another return to the most important national Off-Road event. After all, Peterhansel is the only driver to have participated in Baja Portalegre in three different categories: Cars, which he won in 2008 with a Mitsubishi Racing Lancer, Motorcycles and in the now called SSV. This time, the French prepares to compete at the wheel of a Mini Cooper John Works Rally with clear aspirations to the victory. For Nani Roma, who came close to participate in the 2016 edition, this will be his competitive debut at the Baja. The Spaniard, who was at the Herdade das Coutadas last year to watch the start of the Mini Baja, will team up with Peterhansel and drive the second Mini X-Raid.
Running at home, and also with his eyes on the triumph, will be Ricardo Porém. The winner of the last four editions of Baja Portalegre will be aiming to re-write the history books again with a fifth win.
Another name that will surely do everything to win the Baja is Vladimir Vasyliev. The Russian is third in the World Cup and is only two points adrift from Martin Prokop’s second place… But the Czech will not be attending the event.
Still on the four wheels, the participation of the De Mevius family. The 1991 and 1992 PWRC champion, Gregoire de Mevius, will compete under at the wheel of a Dunbee Buggy while his son Ghislan is on the SSV entry list.
But there are big names in other entry lists for this year’s Baja Portalegre 500. Also returning to the Alentejo tracks is Jutta Kleinschmidt. This time the German will compete not at the wheel of a car, as in 2005 when she was a part of the VW works team, but rather with a Yamaha YXZ 1000 Turbo. It is not the former Dakar rider debut in the SSV, but it is the first time that Kleinschmidt will face the Portalegre tracks in this category.
Already aware of the demands of the race at the wheel of an SSV, Ruben Faria will try to repeat last year’s victory.
Looking now to the two wheels, Luís Oliveira, winner of the 2016 edition, will certainly try to avenge last year's bad luck and fight, once again, for the triumph.
Best known from the football pitch, but already with several off-road races under his belt, André Villas-Boas is another name that in the list of 398 participants. The football coach will line up in Baja Portalegre for the second time, again at the handlebars of a KTM 350 EXC F, and will surely aim to improve the 69th place achieved in 2016.
Two riders who promise to attract attention are Poles Maciej Giemza and Adam Tomiczek. Both juniors, Giemza arrives in Portalegre as the winner of the FIM Junior Cross Country Cup in 2018 and 2017, while Tomiczek was third in the Junior World Cup this year.
Another note worthy of reference is the internationalization of Mini Baja. The project to train young off-road riders launched by Automóvel Club de Portugal nine years ago has always attracted an interesting number of participants and this year will have a rider from the Czech Republic. The young Nelly Caisová, 15, one of the the only two girls in the group, will compete against 13 other young rivals, all of them Portuguese.
The ingredients for what promises to be another big edition of the Baja Portalegre 500 to be played between the 25th and 27th of October and which will be the National Champions of TT, the World Champion of T3 and, who knows, the winners of the national Motorcycle and SSV titles.
Source Baja Portalegre 500's official press release