Qatar International Baja 2023: South Racing Can-Am Team Mavericks all reach finish of gruelling Qatar International Baja
- Brazilian Cristiano de Sousa Batista finishes a close second in FIA T4 category
- Otavio Sousa and defending World Champion Fernando Alvarez fourth and fifth in T3
- Fernando Alvarez leads the T3 category in the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas
The South Racing Can-Am Team entered five Can-Am Mavericks in the Qatar International Baja, round two of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas, and all five machines reached the finish of one of the most difficult events in the world calendar on Saturday.
Brazil’s Cristiano de Sousa Batista and Portugal’s Fausto Moto were able to storm into contention for this year’s FIA World Cup T4 Drivers’ title by finishing a close second overall behind French rival Jeremie Warnia. The result enabled De Sousa to gain ground on first round winner Pau Navarro and rival Ricardo Ramilo.
Brazilian Otavio Sousa and Portuguese co-driver João Ferreira incurred four minutes of road penalties for missing route waypoints on the trickiest event in the calendar in terms of negotiating waypoints and deceptive desert tracks. Nevertheless, the duo managed to finish a fine fourth in the FIA T3 category for lightweight prototype vehicles, beaten only by three desert specialists, two of whom live in Qatar and know the desert terrain well.
Defending FIA T3 World Cup Bajas champion Fernando Alvarez again teamed up with French co-driver Xavier Panseri in his Conarpesa-backed Can-Am. The Spaniard began the event holding second in the T3 Drivers’ Championship. He also picked up four minutes of road penalties for missing a couple of tricky waypoints but bounced back strongly on the final day to climb to fifth place and unofficially fourth of the registered FIA World Cup drivers. The result means he leaves the Middle East as the leader of the FIA World Cup’s T3 Championship.
“This was the third time for me here,” said Alvarez. “The last times we raced here in T1 in the five-day format. The plan was to pick up a good result to take back to Europe. We did a good job today and managed to finish fifth and just 30 seconds away from fourth. We also got very good points for the FIA World Cup. That was our job. We leave Qatar leading the World Cup. Now we go to Europe. It’s good to finish these two races leading the World Cup.”
Spaniard Diego Martinez and Uruguayan team-mate Sergio Lafuente also collected road penalties for missing waypoints. They reached the finish on the Lusail Boulevard, north of Doha, in 12th place.
Last year’s T3 Baja series runner-up Dania Akeel joined forces again with Frenchman Laurent Lichtleuchter and delivered a strong performance that saw her running as high as fourth overall in the T3 category after two stages. She ceded a little time on the next one and slipped to fifth but after a rear-left hub failure on the Can-Am on the final stage she plummeted out of the top 10. The Saudi was classified in 16th at the finish.
South Racing Can-Am Team’s managing director Scott Abraham said: “Another Qatar Baja in the books and a strong performance from the South Racing Can-Am-built cars with podiums in the FIA World Cup in T3 and T4 with valuable points gained for all the crews. It has been a long season in the Middle East and we look forward to heading back to the European rounds of the championship.”
Competitive action got underway with a Prologue stage of 9.08km and Sousa came home in third place behind former team-mate Al-Thefiri and local driver Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari. Alvarez was classified in sixth in the 18-car field and Akeel came home in 13th. De Sousa Batista topped the standings in T4 in his South Racing Can-Am.
Alvarez said: “I made two mistakes. We don’t have a bad position to start. The car was very good. It’s better to make the mistakes today rather than later.”
The second leg ran for 234.34km and included a second stage of 117.29km and two parts of the third stage (46.05km and 70.53km), which were split by a transfer zone.
De Sousa Batista maintained his lead in the T4 section by winning the longer opening stage and finishing third on the next one. He managed to take a lead of 1min 40.2sec over Warnia into the final day.
In T3, local rallying all-rounder Nasser Al-Kuwari was the surprise overall leader after winning the longer stage and finishing second on the next one. Akeel enjoyed an excellent run to set the fourth quickest time on the first one and a solid run through the next two netted the Saudi fourth place at the night halt. South Racing team-mates Sousa, Martinez and Alvarez were classified in sixth, seventh and eighth.
The final second selective section offered 224.96km and ran over four timed parts of 33.73km, 28.51km, 43.23km and 113.20km split by non-competitive transfer zones. Alvarez was third quickest in T3 on the final stage, while De Sousa came home third in T4 behind Navarro and Warnia and narrowly missed out on the outright T4 win.
The South Racing Can-Am Team receives valuable support for the race programme from Method Wheels, Tensor Tires, Motul, Bell, Jjuan Brake Systems, Lazer and OMP.
Qatar International Baja – FIA T3 standings:
1. Meshari Al-Thefiri (KWT)/Oriol Vidal (ESP) MCE-5 T3M (T3) 5hr 30min 32.4sec
2. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari (QAT)/Alexei Kuzmich (ARE) Can-Am Maverick X3 5hr 38min 05.3sec
3. Nasser Al-Kuwari (QAT)/François Cazalet (FRA) Can-Am Maverick X3 5hr 42min 23.3sec+
4. Otavio Sousa (BRA)/João Ferreira (PRT) South Racing Can-Am Maverick X3 5hr 59min 07.7sec
5. Fernando Alvarez (ESP)/Xavier Panseri (FRA) South Racing Can-Am Maverick X3 5hr 59min 39.7sec
+ denotes registered for FIA Middle East Cup
Qatar International Baja – FIA T4 standings:
1. Jeremie Warnia (FRA)/Loic Minaudier (FRA) Polaris RXR Pro R5hr 45min 51.5sec
2. Cristiano Batista (BRA)/Fausto Mota (PRT) South Racing Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo 5hr 46min 21.8sec
3. Pau Navarro (ESP)/Gonçalo Reis (PRT) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo 6hr 02min 01.5sec
4. Ahmed Al-Kuwari (QAT)/Manuel Luchesse (QAT) Yamaha YXZ 1000 R 6hr 07min 26.4sec+
5. Ricardo Ramilo Suarez (ESP)/Marc Sola (ESP) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo 6hr 14min 54.4sec
+ denotes registered for FIA Middle East Cup
Source South Racing