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Baja de Loulé 2023: Tiago Reis triumphs in a challenging Baja de Loulé

Baja de Loulé 2023: Tiago Reis triumphs in a challenging Baja de Loulé

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The Baja de Loulé 2023, which took place last weekend in the Serra do Caldeirão mountain range in southern Portugal, was much anticipated, particularly for the appearance of additional T1+ class vehicles. In the end, only João Ferreira's Mini JCW T1+ joined the Toyota Hilux T1+ fleet of João Ramos, Lourenço Rosa, and Tiago Reis, which was still a cause for enough interest to determine to what extent the Mini would be able to face the spectacular Toyotas, even though it was the pilot's debut with this vehicle. These four were expected to be followed by a long list of drivers in T1 cars who could take advantage of any opportunity that might arise, but instead, there were others who will make the T1+ driver's life very hard.

If on the more traditional car caravan the teams list was vast and well equipped, the same can be said of the T3 and T4 categories, which have been making a "discreet invasion" of the entry lists of the Portuguese races. Among the 51 registered drivers, more than twenty were T3 or T4 drivers. Most of them came from the CNTT races promoted by the Federação de Motociclismo de Portugal, where different regulations allows even higher speeds to these small but very fast vehicles.

In the "Race Menu" we had:

The race disputed in the Algarve region was composed of a prologue with about 5 kilometers and two sectors of 165 kilometers. The prologue and the first sector were held on Saturday, and the final sector was held on Sunday. The prologue offered no major difficulties, interspersing sinous and narrow areas with more open and faster zones, drawn near the Algarve's soccer stadium in Loulé. The two sectors were a completely different matter, taking the participants on a roller coaster ride through the Algarve's mountains, with 1001 curves, in a constant up and down, often on very bad roads and with a lot of stone that worked almost like sandpaper for the vehicles' tires. Sporadically, the track would open up, entering faster areas, with good pavement, and even old WRC sections, offering some precious, less laborious moments to the teams. The long dry spell that is afecting the region also had an influence on the race, with a lot of dust on the track. Fortunately, the weather helped, on the one hand with the wind that kept the dust off the track, and on the other with a rain shower late Saturday afternoon that reduced the dust a little in some areas of the track.

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João Ramos, 2nd

Prologue - Let the games begin!

Tiago Reis took the lead of the race with his Toyota T1+ right in the prologue, getting the best time. But the other T1+ were overtaken by some of the T3 competitors. Alexandre Pinto (2nd) and Pedro Carvalho (3rd) both in Can-Am Maverick left a serious warning to the competition, that their ambitions were really to fight for the victory. João Ramos (Toyota T1+) was fourth, Lourenço Rosa (Toyota T1+) was fifth and finally in sixth was the Mini T1+ of João Ferreira, which is actually a good result since these were his first serious kilometers driving this car.

SS1 - SSV T3 on the attack!

After 165 kilometers of the first sector, Tiago Reis was still in the lead of the race, but followed by a swarm of T3s eager to hunt the Toyota. João Dias (Can-Am Maverick) was now second, finishing the special with 40 seconds off the pace, followed by Alexandre Pinto (Can-Am Maverick) in third and Luis Portela de Morais (Overdrive OT3) in fourth. João Ramos was now fifth, and then another series of T3 with Armindo Araujo in sixth, and the very unlucky Filipe Cameirinha in seventh, who was unfortunate enough to rip the front left wheel off his Can-Am less than 100 meters from the start. João Ferreira's Mini T1+ was now eighth. Within the top 10 was still another T3, totaling 6 cars in this category out of 10 possible.

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Armindo Araújo, 3rd

SS2 - Back to the natural order... or almost.

With the wounds and scratches of the first day healed, drivers and cars were ready to race again and repeat the dose of dust, stones and curves in the middle of the Algarve mountains. Tiago Reis once again managed to keep himself safe from the attacks of all the others and finished the special in front. Lourenço Rosa, who had been forced to abandon the day before and was participating in Super Rally mode, finished the special in second place. The always spectacular João Ramos finished third, completing a special podium made up only of Toyotas T1+. The first SSV to emerge from the dust of the Algarve hills was the Can-Am T3 of Armindo Araujo, followed by Filipe Cameirinha (Can-Am T3) and Pedro Carvalho (Can-Am T3). Only in seventh we were able to find again a "normal car", the Ford Ranger of Lino Carapeta. But in eighth was again a T3, the Can-Am of Rui Farinha.

In the end, taking into account the results of all the teams, including those that participated in the Super Rally, we found in first place Tiago Reis,  the fair winner of the race, with João Ramos managing to score a second place. The experienced and fast Armindo Araujo was third and first among the T3. Pedro Carvalho (Can-Am T3) finished fourth and Francisco Barreto, in a Ford Ranger, finished fifth.   As for the Mini, well let's say that ups and dows of the moutain weren't nice for him,  no allowing him to do better than 18th place.

T1 and T1+ drivers, be warned

At the end of Baja de Loulé, the T3s once again felt the sweet aroma of victory... though in the Algarve they also felt the excruciating pain of breakdowns and accidents, preventing them to steal the vitory to the big boys.

If you look closely at the race, it is clear that the T3 category was able to compete on an almost equal footing with the T1+s,  particularly on the winding, constricting tracks that were part of most of this race, and like it was on the previous one. The T1+ class cars are truly amazing and a fantastic addition to a highly competitive championship like the Portuguese, but they have a slight disadvantage over the T3 cars due to their larger size and heavier weight. This may seem unusual to those who are not familiar with the Portuguese championship; how can a T3 be better than a T1+? Actually, it isn't, although given their size and lack of agility, the T1+ can occasionally suffer in races. The T1+s can only make all of their qualities when the tracks are wide and open.
Notably, the T3s were even in the lead of the race, but some suffered because of track hazzards and others due to the less reliable nature of their parts, causing anguish among these drivers, especially on the second day.
One last thing for the Mini. We must allow João Ferreira time to become accustomed to his new vehicle. Though less exuveran than the Toyota drivers, it appeared more efficient and assured in how it approached the track.

Summer vacation is officially starting for the Portuguese championship. Only on September 22 can races be safely contested due to the summer heat and the potential for forest fires, so now is time for relax and enjoy the sun and the atlantic ocean waters in the Portuguese shores.

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João Ferreira, 18th

 

Text Rally-Raid Network
Photos: ImagensDesportivas.com

 

 

 

 

 

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