In total, almost 200 teams will enter the events in Italy, Spain and Portugal
The south is racing can be a good description of the next weekend, which will be an outstanding one for the cross-country rally fans with a lot of exciting racing action across the southern part of Europe.
Italy draws the biggest international attention. In the northern part of the country, between the beautiful Venice and the Alps, in the area surrounding Pordenone, Italian Baja promises to be very hard and intense challenge for the teams competing in the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies and also for those in the national championship classification, including a “special guest”.
The racing car of Spain’s Acciona team, that recently finished Dakar Rally as the first electric vehicle in the event’s history, makes its first appearance on the European tracks. The special occasion is celebrated with a special crew: the driver will be Andrea Peterhansel with Emma Claire, best known as the heart of Morocco Rally and excellent quad rider, on her side as co-driver.
It’s widely known that Italian Baja offers the teams a unique challenge, mostly because of the long kilometres of the track drawn in the dry (or not so dry) riverbed of River Tagliamento. With no sand in sight, the competitors have to drive on top of billions of stones, and from time to time, cross some stretches of turquoise water. To complete the picture, the race will take the teams also inside the vineyards and farm fields of the area, with very fast roads and some famous jumps.
The “Italian job” starts on Friday, with the usual prologue, where the drivers will have their first contact with the "marbles" of the Tagliamento river. Then on Saturday the teams will face three specials, all on the same 109 km long track, so 327 kilometres against the clock altogether. For Sunday, the programme is shorter, with just two specials, both of 76 kilometres. By the end of Sunday, the teams that manage to get to the finish line had completed a total distance of 499 kilometres.
Altogether, in Italy 74 crews are on the entry list, 35 of which in the FIA classification, joined by 39 cars in the Italian championship classification.
But if in Italy there is a lot of action forecasted, in Iberia, even without the "big names" from FIA World Cup, for sure the fans will have their fair share of emotions and competition with races both in Spain and Portugal.
In Spain there is new event on the calendar: 1st BAJA DEHESA DE EXTREMADURA, with Villafranca de Los Barros, a few kilometers south of Badajoz, as host town. This promises to be a very hard race, not only because of the unknown tracks, but above all because of the extreme heat forecasted for the region, with temperatures in the Extremadura Region getting very close or even above 40ºC.
The teams will have to cover more than 630 kilometres against the clock near Olivenza, across the Spanish plains close to the border with Portugal. The race starts on Friday, with a 10 km prologue and a first special of 121 kilometres. Then on Saturday the "menu" will offer 3 specials: SS2: 212 kms; SS3: 150 kms; SS4: 125 kms. For the moment, in the provisional entry list we can find more than 40 teams already, distributed among various categories and trophies.
Finally in Portugal, Baja do Pinhal will be the third race of the local championship for the cars, and the fourth for the SSVs (and bikes and quads). Portugal has the particularity of the SSVs racing among the motorbikes, under not so restrictive rules as their colleagues in other countries, classified among the cars. This allowed the category to literally explode in popularity, with something like 60 SSVs expected for the event. Just by itself, this is an amazing entry list for a European baja, but we still need to add the cars - 42 of them sent their entry, and among those are some of the most competitive cars of the present, including not only several from well known international developers, but also some very fast Portuguese-build vehicles.
On four wheels, Portugal has almost as many starters as Italian Baja and Spain combined, with a particular focus on the SSV category, where these amazing "pocket rockets" are at the very top of the sport in global terms, both in numbers and also in quality.
The race will be a hard test. The climate is menacing the region with temperatures well above 40ºC, promising "sauna" conditions for the teams. But the track is not easy either: the constant up and down on the mountains of the center of Portugal, with narrow roads and tight corners, complemented by thick dust, require the teams to be extra vigilant to avoid the many traps of the race. Just to get to the finish is an achievement, and to win in any category is an outstanding result.
The cars race starts on Friday, with 2 runs over the prologue stage. On Saturday, 2 specials await the competitors, the first one with 190 kilometres and the second one with almost 137 kilometres. For the SSV category this will be different. The action will start also with the prologue on Friday, but with just one run. Then a "short" stage of just 32 kilometres will introduce the teams to the unforgiving tracks. On Saturday, the SSVs will first cover the special of 137 kilometres, and to "end in great style" they will have to race the 160 kilometres of SS3 before they reach the finish line.
For those of our readers who are lucky enough to live in these countries, we strongly suggest to enjoy the amazing races of this weekend all around the mediterranean Europe. The beauty of cross-country rallies is that they take us to unexpected and amazing places, to not only enjoy one of the most spectacular forms of motorsport, but also discover and explore regions we may otherwise never visit.
You can find more information about these races here:
Italian Baja - http://www.italianbaja.it/
Baja Dehesa de Extremadura - http://www.campeonatott.es/2017-2/rally-tt-dehesa-extremadura
Baja do Pinhal - https://escuderiacastelobranco.pt/inscricoes/2017/baja-tt-pinhal/