The ACP race of the FIA Bajas World Cup starts tomorrow with 415 registered teams, from 20 nationalities. The 37th edition, which runs until Saturday, features Nasser Al-Attiyah, five-time Dakar winner and two-time World Rally-Raid champion.
At the starting ceremony, on Thursday night, 415 teams will pass through the centre of Portalegre, divided into the categories of Cars (112), Motorcycles (99), Quads (36), SSV (84), Promotion / Hobby (59) and Mini Baja (25).
The heavy rains of recent weeks could increase the degree of difficulty of the route of 439 timed kilometres for cars (a total of 668.9 kilometres), 368.1 timed kilometres for motorbikes, SSV and quads (a total of 524.2 kilometres), and 183.7 kilometres for the Promotion and Hobby categories (240.3 kilometres in total). As usual, the competition begins with the popular 3.7-kilometre Prologue at Herdade das Coutadas, on Friday morning, which precedes a selective sector with 61.8 timed kilometres. On Saturday, cars have two more selective sectors (totalling 373.5 kilometres), while motorcycles, SSVs and quads cover a single sector, 303 kilometres long.
The assistance park and the race’s operational center are located at NERPOR, which also hosts the final press conference, scheduled for 6 p.m. on Saturday, and the awards ceremony, at 8:30 p.m.
The return of Nasser Al-Attiyah
The Baja Portalegre 500 is the penultimate race of the FIA Bajas World Cup, preceding the rounds in Dubai and Jordan. Scored for the world competition of drivers, co-drivers, teams, T3 drivers, T4 drivers and T4 teams, this is also the most important round of the FPAK and FMP All-Terrain Portuguese Championships.
In the list of cars, a highlight is Nasser Al-Attiyah, the current leader of the Bajas World Cup, who recently became a two-time World Rally-Raid champion at the Morocco Rally. The five-time Dakar winner will make his debut behind the wheel of a Prodrive Hunter, precisely the car with which Sébastien Loeb has shone in the World Rally-Raid and which, for the first time, will be in action in Portugal. Despite the Qatari driver and prince’s illustrious achievements, which include world titles in rallying, TT and a bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympic Games, Al-Attiyah has never managed to win the Baja Portalegre 500.
One of Al-Attiyah’s main opponents promises to be João Ferreira, who, in 2022, became the youngest winner of Portalegre and of an FIA World Cup race, now appearing behind the wheel of the Mini JCW T1+ with a biodiesel engine. The former national and European champion, who recently won the Morocco Rally in the T4 category, with Filipe Palmeiro, is already familiar with the petrol Toyota Hilux T1+, which includes names such as Saudi Yazeed Al-Rajhi, driven by Timo Gottschalk, or national champions Tiago Reis and Valter Cardoso, who arrive in Portalegre motivated by winning their third CPTT title. With extensive experience in Portalegre, João Ramos (navigated by Jorge Carvalho) and Miguel Barbosa (with Paulo Fiúza) are also candidates for first place, also with the Hilux T1+.
Last year, the SSVs in the T3 category were just 21.7s away from an unprecedented overall triumph in Portalegre, through João Dias and João Miranda (Can-Am), who this year are back in charge, as Luís Portela de Morais and Tomás Neves (ORT3), who closed the absolute podium in 2022. In this category, there are several candidates for a prominent place, such as Armindo Araújo and Luís Ramalho (Can-Am), who came to lead the overall race last year and who currently command the CPTT in T3. Ricardo However, the only driver to win the Baja Portalegre 500 four times in a row (between 2014 and 2017), makes his debut in T3 with a Can-Am, on his way to his 15th participation! And what can we say about the 33 participations (out of a possible 37) by Carlos Silva, a renowned navigator who this year accompanies the young Algarve native Francisco Barreto, in a Toyota Hilux T1+…
On motorcycles, the exciting duel that pitted António Maio and Simão Ventura last year, decided in favour of the multi-time national champion by an incredible 0.1s after 414.2 kilometres, will not be repeated. Simão Ventura was recently injured, but the list of bikes has an extensive, quality squad and the national TT3 title is still to be decided. António Maio (Yamaha) has already renewed his title of absolute champion and is looking for his ninth victory in Portalegre, on a weekend where Sebastian Bühler returns to the national races, with the official Hero. Other highlights are the Honda riders – Gustavo Gaudêncio, Fábio Magalhães, João Duarte, Gonçalo and Salvador Amaral -, Husqvarna riders – Bruno Santos, Miguel Castro and Daniel Jordão – and Bernardo Megre (KTM), David Megre (Kawasaki), Tomás Dias (Fantic) or André Sérgio (Beta). The TT3 title will be discussed between Bruno Santos and Fábio Magalhães.
In the quads, João Vale won last year and appears in Portalegre with the Can-Am Renegade XXC, but this year the fight for the champion title involves Luís Fernandes (Yamaha), leader of the championship after three victories, and the young Rafael Carvalho ( Yamaha) and Rodrigo Alves (Yamaha).
The list of candidates for victory in the SSV is extensive and includes three former national champions who are in a direct fight for the title: João Monteiro, Pedro Santinho Mendes and Roberto Borrego, all in Can-Am. Gonçalo Guerreiro, the defending champion and winner of the last two editions in Portalegre, leads the Polaris offensive, with his brother Tiago Guerreiro, while Luis Cidade, Hélder Rodrigues and Nelson Caxias, all in Can-Am, also have arguments to fight for victory. In the Stock championship, the title will be decided between Nelson Saramago (Polaris), Rui Serpa (Can-Am) and Paulo Fernandes (Yamaha), the latter being the Portuguese representative in the European SuperFinale of the Yamaha YXZ1000R Cup, which is taking place in Portugal for the fourth time.
Mini Baja looking to the future
The ACP race includes the Mini Baja category, aimed at young drivers aged 8 to 16, divided into Children, Beginners and Youth classes. Integrated into the FMP Mini TT Championship, it is an important moment for anyone who aspires to follow in the footsteps of the national TT and Rally-Raids stars who made history in Portalegre and Dakar. Domingos Cunha (Yamaha) and Bernardo Caiado (Gas Gas) lead the Youth and Beginners classes, while Francisco Porto Nunes (Yamaha) is already the champion among Children.
The Mini Baja route includes a passage through the Prologue, on Friday, and a Selective Sector of around 85 kilometres (and a stop in the middle for refuelling) on Saturday.
Baja Portalegre 500 is Eco-event
The Baja Portalegre 500 has an Environmental Sustainability Plan that grants the status of “Eco-event” to the ACP test. In partnership with the company Valnor and the municipalities of Portalegre, Ponte de Sor, Nisa, Gavião, Crato, Chamusca, Alter do Chão and Abrantes, the organization intends to achieve measurable environmental sustainability objectives throughout the event, in line with the codes environmental issues of the FIA and FIM.
As in previous years, the work carried out with Valnor aims to reduce the amount of waste produced, separate packaging and selective collection and recycling of waste. In the different locations where the event takes place, particularly in areas with the highest public attendance (NERPOR, Prologue and Spectacle Zones), containers and recycling bins are available for sorting waste, with participants, assistance teams and spectators encouraged to contribute. for the correct separation of waste. Local training and awareness-raising activities are also promoted to disseminate best recycling practices.
At the end of the event, the amount determined by the collection of waste produced during the event, delivered by ACP to Valnor, will be paid in full to the Portalegre Volunteer Firefighters.
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