Long, hot, tiring, fast, bumpy, enjoyable! These words get on well in only a cross country rally driver"s vocabulary, if speaking about a stage. Why? Because these guys love challenges. The organisers of the Hungarian leg of FIA 2019 World Cup for Cross Country Bajas marked out a 208-km stage for the crews this day, who arrived at the service park in Várpalota exhausted, but happy after the whole day"s hard work.
They fought great battles and stood the challenges.
This Saturday race distance would even match a Dakar stage, especially that here millions of turns made the drivers" and mostly the co-drivers" life more difficult either on the shooting range or the forest roads.
On SS1 Orlando Terranova was the fastest among the car drivers, while on SS2 Martin Prokop drove fastest – the Argentinean is leading the overall classification. Victory would be essential for him, because he is only 4 points behind the overall leader, the Russian Vladimir Vasilyev, who is presently on third position.
"On the whole it was a hard day, we faced a lot of challenges" said Terranova, driving a Mini Cooper, in the finish. "Just to mention that our jack was torn off, so a puncture could be fatal for us. Being aware of this it was not easy to complete the second 208 km, so I became very tired by the end. And also because spending five hours in this heat is very exhausting. I like the stage itself, even if it is very tough and there is no place for any distraction."
The second placed Martin Prokop is only 46 seconds behind, and that means he still has good chance to win, which he aims for.
"We did not make any mistake, our rhythm and results were good, but we had to keep focusing very much" said Prokop. "We got a good rhythm and then came a jolting section that put us off. We had to adjust to the continuously changing conditions and it was not easy to choose the proper speed. It was a tricky stage, but fortunately our car worked well. We drove with a new gearbox and new setup, and both paid off. However, the air-conditioning broke down in the car, so the heat took off a lot of energy from us. We are not far behind, so we try to go for the win."
Originally, the third placed Vladimir Vasilyev was also aiming for victory, but the morning"s puncture made his job very difficult.
"At the 120th km we got a left rear puncture. We changed the tyre, but meantime Orli (Terranova) overtook us" said Vasilyev. "We did not make huge mistakes, but it is very tiring to start from the pole, because you cannot see the road ahead. So a stone could cut easily our tyre. It was an exhausting and long stage. I do not know what to do with the tyres, because we can use only eight ones according to the rules. But the stage eats the tyres."
Much to the delight of the Hungarian fans, Pál Lónyai and Albert Horn are standing on fourth position, and they intend to keep it by the end.
"The race is awesome, the organisers did great job by connecting old stages. The track has become world class" said Lónyai. "Though it is very challenging, everybody was totally exhausted in the finish. Until now we could save our power and the car, too. We hope we can continue like this. We had some small mistakes, but this fourth position is awesome, we"ve just taken a bow with my co-driver to try to keep it."
The Polish Jakub Przygonski, driving the other Mini, was also in the running, but he was not very lucky. On Stage 1 the brake broke down in his car, they tried to exchange it in the service park, so they were late from the check point, but the problem was not solved, and it was quite difficult to drive without brake – Przygonski could barely feel his leg by the evening.
For the motorcycle racers the challenge was even bigger...
They race on foot for almost all the way down, indeed they started later, in even greater heat. The second stage was short cut for them after dark, so it finished at the 138th km. However, it was well enough, they will definitely sleep well due to exhaustion.
Victory was shared by the Polish Adam Tomicek and Slovakian Stefan Svitko. In overall classification the Polish is leading, though by only 34 seconds, so it is quite close. It is good news for the spectators, because big battle is expected on Sunday, too.
"It was a great stage. I started from the back of the field on the first one, so I made the first 100 km in big dust. I went into a hole that threw me away, I did a big jump" Tomicek spoke about the morning"s happenings. "Then I fell over 10 km before the finish, because I had problems with my tyres, but finally it worked out. It is extremely hot and the stage is long. It is a huge feeling when we get into the forest and have some shadow after the fast first part of the track."
Stefan Svitko is well aware of the environment, because he already competed in HunGarian Baja many times, indeed, he has already won here. "It is very fast and rocky, sometimes a bit dangerous" said the Slovakian racer. "Though I enjoyed it very much, except for the last 15 km, when I caught an SSV and then I rode in its dust. The bike is good, I am not tired either, so the motto for the second stage was: let"s push as hard as I can!"
He exactly did it, because he won the stage, though he could not take the lead. Maciej Giemza is standing on third position, he was chasing by the World Cup leader, the French Benjamin Melot, who is almost 2 and a half minute behind. He can catch the Polish only if he makes a mistake or has some technical issues.
"It was a good day, though I made a small mistake: I saw a road on the left and I went there instead of following the right direction" said Benjamin Melot, who finished fourth both stages. "I lost about 40 seconds. Regardless, I enjoyed this fast, sometimes bumpy stage that eats the tyres, so we must focus on very much. I try to catch Maciej, but I will not take too much risk."
That is understandable. If you are aspiring for the overall World Cup victory, your priorities are different from those, who "only" wants to win a race…
To be continued on Sunday with two 82-km stages.
Overall classification after three selective stages.
1. Orlando Terranova, Bernardo Graue (Argetinean, Mini John Cooper) 5:00:04,
2. Prokop, Tománek (Czech, Ford Raptor) +46 sec,
3. Vasilyev, Ziltsov (Russian, Toyota Hilux) +7:27 min,
4. Pál Lónyai, Albert Horn (Hungarian, LPR Porsche Macan) +32:43 min.
1. Adam Tomiczek (Polish, Husqvarna) 4:15:27,
2. Svitko (Slovakian, KTM) +34 sec,
3. Giemza (Polish, Husqvarna) +17:32 min.
Source Hungarian Baja official press release