Rain, mud, a lot of crowds, but also a lot of emotion in the discussion of the top places in the different categories.
Basically, “an old-fashioned Portalegre”, a test of overcoming the more than 400 competitors who faced the 37th edition of the Baja Portalegre 500. In the end, a second consecutive victory for young João Ferreira (Mini), among cars, while Bruno Santos (Motorcycles), João Vale (Quads), Hélder Rodrigues (SSV) and Domingos Cunha (Mini Baja) triumphed in their respective categories.
“An incredible race, fantastic mud specials and a crazy number of spectators!” The renowned Mattias Ekström was a newcomer to the Baja Portalegre 500, but the words of the two-time DTM champion, World Rallycross champion and Dakar stage winner say everything about the success and special nature of the Automóvel Club de Portugal race. On a weekend marked by difficult weather conditions, which flooded several parts of the route and even forced the last selective sector to be shortened, on Saturday, the Baja Portalegre 500 once again established itself as one of the toughest and most emblematic races in the world. -international terrain.
Sporting-wise, João Ferreira achieved his second consecutive victory in the car race, now accompanied by the experienced Filipe Palmeiro and driving the Mini JCW Plus in the T1+ category. The former national and European Baja champion, who was coming off a victory in the Morocco Rally in the T4 category, masterfully managed the toughness of the route and led the race in Saturday’s two selective sectors. “It’s an incredible feeling. Before the race, we knew that we would fight with the current World champion (ed., Al-Attiyah) and the World runner-up (ed., Al-Rajhi). We did our best in difficult conditions, with a lot of water and mud. Winning in Portalegre is always very special, especially in these conditions and with this competition”, said João Ferreira at the end.
Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel, who were making their debut with Nasser Al-Attiyah, were penalized 20 minutes in the morning sector, for blocking João Ferreira’s Mini, paving the way for Yazeed Al-Rajhi’s provisional second place overall and Timo Gottschalk (Toyota Hilux T1+). “This race in Portugal is never easy, so I am satisfied with the result. There are lots of spectators along the route, it’s incredible, and the organization also does an excellent job. It is very pleasant to race here”, said the Saudi driver.
In turn, Al-Attiyah won the FIA Bajas World Cup title in Portalegre appealed the 20-minute penalty, and could still move up from the 12th place in which he finished.
João Dias and João Miranda (Can-Am) Maverick Armindo Araújo and Luís Ramalho were the fastest in Selective Sector 4, with another Can-Am from the Santag team, coming very close to the overall podium, in fourth place. The top 5 were completed with another Can-Am from the T3 category, Alexandre Pinto and Bernardo Oliveira. Brazilian Cristiano Batista, sailed by Robledo Nicoletti, took his Can-Am to victory in T4, with Alexandre and Rui Franco doing the same in T1, despite problems with the Mercedes 350D’s turbo. Tomás Gameiro and António Saraiva triumphed in the T2, with the Toyota LC200, and Ricardo Sousa was the fastest in the CNTT race, with a Can-Am sailed by Jorge Brandão. Sérgio Matos and Sebastião Dominguez repeated last year’s victory in the National Event, with a Mercedes-Benz pickup.
Bruno Santos debuts to win in Portalegre
Ten years after debuting in the race, Bruno Santos takes the top spot on the Baja Portalegre 500 podium. The Husqvarna driver, two-time national TT Rally Raid champion in 2018 and 2019, left today in the third position, but when, roughly in the middle of the Selective Sector, he rose to the lead, he gradually increased the gap to his most direct opponents. In the end, 2m44s difference to second place. “I made few mistakes and walked very cautiously, as I didn’t come with the ambition to give everything in Portalegre. As I have to be operational for the Dakar, I was very afraid of suffering an injury, but as the race progressed, and with António Maio’s difficulties, I saw that I had an opportunity and took advantage of it”, said Bruno Santos.
The remaining places on the podium were occupied by André Sérgio (Beta) and Gonçalo Amaral (Honda), while Tomás Dias (Fantic) and João Duarte (Honda) completed the leading quintet. It should be noted that António Maio, the national TT champion and eight-time victor in Portalegre, was left in 19th position, due to a leak in the gas pipe of his Yamaha.
Hélder Rodrigues triumphs in the SSV
After an illustrious career on motorcycles, Hélder Rodrigues (Can-Am) also excels in the SSV, having been the strongest in Portalegre, his first victory in this category. “This means a lot to me. After a tough year, winning here is very special. The car was impeccable, I had no punctures and in the final part I had to manage to overtake the four-wheelers.” In the provisional final classification, João Monteiro (Can-Am) was ranked second and, with this result, he will be the new national champion, while Pedro Santinho Mendes (Can-Am) finishes in third place, after having been in command of the proof.
João Vale scores twice in the Quads
For the second year in a row, João Vale (Can-Am) dominated among the Quads at the Baja Portalegre 500, with the driver from Santo Tirso imposing his law right from the Prologue. “A great victory! At kilometer 40 we were unlucky when we ran out of brakes in front. I came to believe that it wouldn’t be possible, but mission accomplished and congratulations to the team”, highlighted João Vale.
Tomás Paulo (Yamaha) was 2nd, 2m57.9s behind the leader, while Flávio Gonçalves, Filipe Silva and Rodrigo Alves (all on Yamaha) completed the leading quintet.
With a dramatic ending, after being towed for more than 80 kilometres by teammate Tiago Teixeira, Rafael Carvalho reached the end quite emotional, at a time when he was discussing the title of national champion. “There are no words to describe it. This is, without a doubt, the spirit of Baja”, said, in tears, the young 21-year-old driver, in one of the most striking images from this year’s edition. Although the classification is still provisional, Luís Fernandes (Yamaha) should be the new SSV national champion.
Young Domingos Cunha scores twice and becomes national champion in Mini Baja
Aged between nine and 16 years old, the young Mini Baja drivers were true heroes in Portalegre, taking into account the rain and road conditions they had to face. In the end, second consecutive victory for Domingos Cunha (Yamaha) in Portalegre, a result that allowed him to become the national youth champion. “It was a really cool race, with a spectacular route. The floors had some more dilapidated parts after the cars passed by, but I enjoyed it from start to finish and I achieved my goal”, said Domingos Cunha.
Bernardo Caiado (Gas Gas), Manuel Amaral (Yamaha), Luís Rodrigues (KTM) and António Feliciano (Yamaha) closed the group of the top five, but with the first being proud of having been the winner among the Initiates and became national champion. Francisco Porto Nunes (Yamaha) won among the Children and celebrated his title of champion in the best way.
Almost six dozen competitors livened up the Promo & Hobby categories, with victories for Luís Rodrigues (Hobby Motos), Frederico Ribeirinho (Hobby Quads), Gita Gomes (Hobby SSV); Duarte Pereira (Open Moto), António Coimbra (Open SSV), Tiago Ferreira (Maxi Baja0); Francisco Jacinto (Maxi Baja S1) and João Rebelo (Maxi Baja V2).