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Al-Attiyah is the new leader in cars and Bühler wins motorcycles

second stage of bp Ultimate Rally-Raid Portugal

The beauty and selectivity of the Alentejo routes continue to surprise the teams from bp Ultimate Rally-Raid Portugal, which receives praise from drivers in the World Rally-Raid Championship (W2RC).

In sporting terms, the second stage is marked by the rise of two-time world champion Nasser Al-Attiyah (Prodrive) to the lead among cars, the rise to fourth place in the general classification of Portuguese João Ferreira and the victory of Portuguese-German Sebastien Bühler on motorcycles.

Tomorrow, the teams face the longest stage of the race, passing through the regions of Ribatejo, Alto Alentejo and Spanish Extremadura.

The second competitive day of the bp Ultimate Rally-Raid Portugal was marked by a frantic fight at the front of the race, with muddy and extremely slippery surfaces causing additional difficulties for teams in the different categories.

With victory in today’s stage, Nasser Al-Attiyah and French navigator Edouard Boulanger are the new leaders of the Automóvel Club de Portugal race. A result that gives them five more points in the W2RC and brings them closer to Carlos Sainz, who leads the championship, after his victory in the Dakar. “It’s good to win the stage. We are happy, but we were a little cautious, as it is a new race for everyone, where it is easy to make mistakes. We have to go stage by stage and accumulate points every day for the championship”, highlighted the Qatari driver, who started the race nine points behind Sainz and is now seven points behind.

sebastien loeb
Sebastien Loeb < bp Ultimate Rally-Raid Portugal

Sébastien Loeb was just like himself. Despite making his debut at the wheel of the Taurus T3 Max in the Challenger category, the Frenchman was just 35 seconds away from winning the stage. The double winner of the WRC Rally de Portugal started the stage in 27th place on the road and overtook all rivals in the Challenger category. “We were always on the attack. We did our best with this car. It was everything to the maximum. It wasn’t possible to do much more”, said Loeb, who rose to fifth place overall and first in the category.

At the controls of a Toyota Hilux, Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Timo Gottschalk set the third-best time in the Selective Sector, a result that allowed them to maintain second place in the general classification. “We started to ‘open’ the road after (Guerlain) Chicherit’s accident, around km 30. It wasn’t easy, but we did our best and Timo (Gottschalk) did a great job”, said the Saudi driver.

The duo João Ferreira/Filipe Palmeiro was excellent. Riding a MINI JCW Rally Plus, not only was it the best Portuguese team, with fourth place in the selective sector, but it also rose to fourth place overall, 1m46s behind the lead. “It was a difficult day. The first part of the special was very slippery and very muddy. After the neutralization, in the second part, the surface was drier and we were able to have more fun. Fourth place overall, for now. I don’t think so bad”, pointed out the young driver from Leiria, who also won the Portuguese Off-Road Championship race, whose scores were awarded at the end of today’s stage.

joÃo ferreira
João Ferreira < bp Ultimate Rally-Raid Portugal

Who also continues to have aspirations of victory is Carlos Sainz, in another MINI JCW Rally Plus from X-Raid. The four-time Dakar winner was fifth fastest on the day and occupies third place overall: “Everything went well. The car is impeccable and the stage was quite technical, with muddy and narrow parts – typical of Portugal.”

João Ramos was in good shape, with the Hilux driver being the eighth fastest of the day.

Young South African Saood Variawa, just 18 years old, was the surprise of the day, placing his Toyota at the front of the W2RC race, but his joy was short-lived as he suffered a 30-minute penalty at the end of the stage.

Among the Portuguese, at the end of the second stage, there are more highlights: João Dias is seventh overall and second in the Challenger category, 3m54s behind Loeb; Alexandre Pinto is third among Challengers and ninth overall; Armindo Araújo occupies 13th absolute position, immediately ahead of João Ramos.

João Monteiro continued to lead among the SSV, despite the stage victory going to the W2RC category leader, Yasir Seaidan. The Saudi has a 2m10s disadvantage over Monteiro.

A day that is also marked by the withdrawal of two Toyota Hilux T1+ candidates for victory in the bp Ultimate Rally-Raid Portugal: the leader of the first stage, Guerlain Chicherit, did not avoid an accident at the beginning of the Selective Sector and despite still having continued in the race , was forced to give up due to mechanical problems resulting from excess; Teammate Guillaume de Mévius had the same luck, due to a crash at km 48.

Bühler wins the stage and attacks Schareina’s lead

Portuguese-German Sebastian Bühler was the great motorcycle hero in the second stage of the bp Ultimate Rally-Raid Portugal, a good part of which was covered in the region where he lives. The Hero driver was the fastest in the selective sector at 166.29 km, he made his debut in winning stages in the Rally-Raid World Championship (therefore earning five points) and with that, he reduced the disadvantage to the leader of the general classification to 2m56s, the Spaniard Tosha Schareina, from Honda.

sebastian bÜhler
Sebastian Bühler < bp Ultimate Rally-Raid Portugal

Bühler started the day with a deficit of 5m35s after a four-minute penalty was added to his time on Wednesday night: “I felt good throughout the whole stage. There was a lot of water on the road before the finishing zone. refuelling, but I tried to be quick, without forgetting to be careful with the bike, because in fast areas the risk is enormous. After that, the special flowed and I’m very happy with this result”, said Bühler.

Frenchman Adrien Van Beveren (Honda) was second fastest of the day, 1m09s behind Bühler: “I’m enjoying this race. I love racing in Portugal, I love this type of terrain, it’s completely different from what we’re used to in the desert. It’s a technical route that requires a lot of concentration in the water crossings. It would be difficult to beat Sebastian Bühler here because we’re running in his ‘garden’. But I’m happy for him and I’ll continue to do my best.”

Brilliant was the performance of former national champion Bruno Santos, author of the third-best time, but also first in the Rally2 category and the best Portuguese. “It was an excellent day for me. I felt very comfortable and I always had a good pace. The route was treacherous, with some very slippery areas, but as we are in our country, we can attack with more confidence”, said the driver of Husqvarna.

South African Bradley Cox (KTM) was fourth fastest of the day and second among Rally2, followed by American Skyler Howes (Honda) and Tosha Schareina (Honda) who ran the stage with a wrist brace on his arm left, as protection against any repercussions of the fracture he suffered in the first stage of this year’s Dakar. The Spaniard maintained his lead in the general classification, with 2m56s ahead of Sebastian Bühler.

Eighth in today’s stage, António Maio (Yamaha) was relegated from fourth to fifth overall, 4m51s behind the leader.

A reference to Harith Noah, winner of the Rally2 class in the recent Dakar Rally, but who was stopped at km 48 with clutch problems. The Sherco driver had started the day in 6th place in Rally2.

The Portuguese Gonçalo Amaral (Honda) occupies 16th place overall and leads the Rally3 category.

Argentine Manuel Andújar continued to dominate among the quads, one day after David Castera, from ASO, announced that the category will stop competing in Dakar in 2025.

Tomorrow, Friday, the longest stage of the bp Ultimate Rally-Raid Portugal will take place, with a total of 374.10 timed kilometres. The teams head to Ribatejo and Alto Alentejo, regions with a lot of tradition off-road, also because of the Baja Portalegre 500, crossing the border to arrive in Badajoz, a Spanish city where they will spend the night and start Saturday’s stage.

For more information, visit the official bp Ultimate Rally-Raid Portugal website.

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