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Italian Baja 2024: Portugal's João Dias and Pedro Ré snatch vital victory in Italian Baja
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Italian Baja 2024: Portugal's João Dias and Pedro Ré snatch vital victory in Italian Baja

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The Portuguese crew of João Dias and João Pedro Ré carded the second quickest time on the last stage to seal a stunning victory at the Pordenone-based Italian Baja, round two of the 2024 FIA European Baja Cup, on Saturday evening.

The Santag Racing Can-Am Maverick X3 crew also won the Challenger category by 72.9 seconds and have catapulted themselves into contention for honours in the FIA European Baja Cup. Dias said: “It was a tough race. Three laps and the last one was a clean one. We have a Portuguese flag at the ceremony.

The Polish duo of Adam Kuś and Marcin Pasek won the opening stage across the glacial plains, narrow stony tracks and river crossings in northern Italy to eventually finished as runners-up in their G Rally Team OT3. Spanish driver Fidel Castillo Ruiz and his Portuguese navigator Fausto Moto rounded off the podium finishers and won the SSV section to lead the category after two of the five Bajas in the annual FIA calendar.

Challenger and SSV machines dominated the results on an event where the narrow stages and water crossings played havoc with the running order. The Portuguese pairing of Jorge Rodrigues and João Miranda Ferreira finished fourth in their Can-Am Maverick X3 and the Ultimate category-winning Italian duo of Manuele Mengozzi and Mirko Brun rounded off the top five in a Toyota Hilux built by Overdrive Racing.

Alexandre Pinto and Bernardo Oliveira collected valuable points for sixth in their Can-Am and João Ferreira and Filipe Palmeiro recovered from first stage delays with battery woes to finish seventh and remain at the forefront of the championship standings in their X-Raid Mini JCW Rally Plus.

Ferreira said: “It was an okay race but not a good one. We had a problem in the first with the battery but we finished all the stages and we won the Prologue and two stages. We are in the race for the European Cup, for sure. I congratulate João Dias and Pedro Ré, who did an amazing job. We will have a tough battle with them this year.”

The Spanish pairing of Miguel Prat Martinez and Sara Garcia were classified in eighth and the two Italian crews of Andrea Shiumarini and Maurizio Gerini (Century Racing CR6) and Andrea Castagnera and Elisa Tassile (Can-Am) rounded off the top 10. Both Tomasz Bialkowski and Fernando Alvarez retired before the finish with the former suffering a fire on his Can-Am.

Prat Martinez said: “We had a setback on the last section with a roll. We rolled into a river and I ended up in the water. Luckily, I could stick my head out to breathe but it was a bit of a scare. Thanks to the spectators, we were able to pull the car out, get it upright and continue and we finished second in SSV.”

Alvarez added: “We didn’t start the third stage because the mechanic saw in the radiator where a stone hit and broke a part inside. I didn’t want to destroy the engine so we decided to retire.”

Fernando Barreiros and Manuel Pereira won the Stock category for series production cross-country machines in their Isuzu D-Max and now have a useful lead in the championship.

The Italian Baja attracted 28 starters in the FIA category. The list consisted of 10 vehicles in the Ultimate section, 11 in Challenger, six in SSV and one in the Stock section. Of those, 17 were registered for points in the FIA European Baja Cup.

The Turkish duo of Israfil Akyuz and Mert Tepe were disqualified before the start when their Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR was deemed to be lacking several items of safety equipment at pre-event scrutineering.

On-stage action began with a 12.43km Prologue stage on Friday at Valvasone. Ferreira topped the times on the challenging stage with a run of 8min 41.0sec and gained the advantage of a favourable starting position for the first of three passes through the 94.13km stage on Saturday. Benediktas Vanagas and Michal Maluszyński finished second and third and Ferreira opted to follow Vanagas into the competitive opener.

Kuś moved into the outright lead with the quickest time of 1hr 25min 46.5sec through the first stage and headed for the re-run with an advantage of 9.2 seconds over Castillo Ruiz’s SSV. The nature of the tracks on the Tagliamento stage suited the side-by-sides better than the Ultimates and the highest-placed of those was Mengozzi in fourth overall.

Vanagas (engine hydro-lock issues), Francisco Barreto and Maluszyński (transmission) all suffered on the narrow stage that featured numerous water crossings and retired. Championship leader Ferreira sustained battery issues and visibility problems with failing wipers and dropped 25 minutes to the leaders. Meanwhile, Belgian Stefan Carmens crashed his Redlined Revo+ out of contention 12.5km into the stage.

Vanagas said: “Three or four years ago, we had a hydro-lock on the engine in Spain. We need to find a solution to how our car can handle water. The Toyotas with turbo engines all had some issues. We need to find the right solution.”

Ferreira bounced back strongly to win the second stage and climbed to 13th overall but the third quickest time enabled Kuś to maintain a lead of 64.1 seconds over Castillo Ruiz to take into the final stage. Dias came home second to hold third overall and Mengozzi and Andrea Schiumarini slotted into fourth and fifth places.

The high rate of attrition continued with Amerigo Ventura, Pal Lonyai, William Buller, Federico Butto, Jean-Denis Piccini and Miklos Trebisch all falling by the wayside.

Ventura said: “We were pushing a lot to catch Fidel (Castillo Ruiz) and then we had a little mechanical problem with the steering rack. We tried to continue but it got worse and we almost had an accident. We tried to get out of the stage but could not continue because it also damaged part of the chassis.”

Ferreira won the last stage and climbed to seventh but second place enabled Dias to overhaul Kuś to snatch the win from Castillo Ruiz, Rodrigues and Mengozzi.

Action resumes in the FIA European Baja Cup in Hungary on August 9th-11th.

2024 Italian Baja - Final result:
1. João Dias (PRT)/João Pedro Ré (PRT) Can-Am Maverick X3 4hr 08min 18.4sec*
2. Adam Kuś (POL)/Marcin Pasek (POL) G Rally Team OT3 4hr 09min 31.3sec*
3. Fidel Castillo Ruiz (ESP)/Fausto Moto (PRT) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR 4hr 10min 24.4sec*
4. Jorge Rodrigues (PRT)/João Miranda Ferreira (PRT) Can-Am Maverick X3 4hr 21min 57.5sec*
5. Manuele Mengozzi (ITA)/Mirko Brun (ITA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 4hr 22min 22.0sec
6. Alexandre Pinto (PRT)/Bernardo Oliveira (PRT) Can-Am Maverick X3 4hr 23min 08.2sec*
7. João Ferreira (PRT)/Filipe Palmeiro (PRT) Mini JCW Rally Plus 4hr 28min 15.4sec*
8. Miguel Prat Martinez (ESP)/Sara Garcia (ESP) Yamaha YXZ 1000R 4hr 30min 45.1sec*
9. Andrea Shiumarini (ITA)/Maurizio Gerini (ITA) Century Racing CR6 4hr 35min 21.1sec
10. Andrea Castagnera (ITA)/Elisa Tassile (ITA) Can-Am Maverick X3 4hr 38min 53.9sec

 

Source: FIA

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