MEDIA INFORMATION 31st BAJA PORTALEGRE 500
South racing’s pórem claims Portuguese and Iberian off-road titles with fourth victory in Baja Portalegre 500
· Fernando Alvarez brings new Volkswagen Amarok to finish in sixth
· Ré and Barbosa sidelined early on; Halpern out before last stage
PORTALEGRE (PORTUGAL): A fourth successive victory in Portugal’s Baja Portalegre 500 enabled South Racing’s Ricardo Pórem to secure the 2017 Portuguese National Championship of Cross-Country Rallies (CNTT) and the 2017 Cross-Country Rally Iberian Trophy in his Ford Ranger.
The Portuguese driver and navigator Hugo Magalhães won the all-important third selective section to reach the podium 5min 44sec ahead of Brazilian runner-up and fourth stage winner Guilherme Spinelli. Porém had arrived in Portalegre with a 24-point advantage in his domestic cross-country series and, with none of his closest rivals managing to claim enough points for a top finish, the title was secured with one round to spare.
To add icing on the cake, he also amassed enough points to confirm victory in the Cross-Country Rallies Iberian Trophy, a championship run in conjunction with both the Spanish and Portuguese national sporting authorities.
The Ford Ranger driver had already claimed victories in Baja Capital Dos Vinhos de Portugal and Baja Idanha-da-Nova, finished runner-up in Baja de Loulé and retired from Baja do Pinhal in the well-supported, six-round Portuguese series.
Porém said: “It is a great way to finish the season and it’s extra special to win my fourth Baja Portalegre. A big thanks goes out to the team. It was a great year for all of us and we are looking forward to the future.”
Spaniard Fernando Alvarez and his Argentinean co-driver Juan Pablo Monasterolo wheeled out their new Volkswagen Amarok and climbed through the field to finish sixth overall behind Chile’s third-placed Boris Garafulic, Spain’s Luic Recuenco and Portugal’s Nuno Matos.
The Argentinean pairing of Sebastian Halpern and Eduardo Pulenta were running superbly in second overall behind Pórem into the first passage control on the third stage on Saturday morning. But the South American clouted a large rock and ripped a wheel off his South Racing Toyota Hilux. The resultant damage cost him nearly two hours and he retired before the start of the last stage.
The Portuguese pairing of Alexandre and Pedro Ré held sixth at the end of day one in their South Racing Ford Ranger, but Ré ripped a wheel off the car early in the third stage and retired.
Miguel Barbosa and Miguel Ramalho ran a Mitsubishi ASX in conjunction with Wevers Sport and South Racing, but suffered a broken chassis on the first of the selective sections on Friday. They had completed the Prologue stage in 12th overall.
“This was a great way to end the season after 27 races this year,” said South Racing’s managing director Scott Abraham. “This was the most successful year for the team to date, winning five championships, but that would not have been possible without the great team we have behind us and my thanks goes out to every single one of them and our drivers who have put their faith in South Racing.
“It will take a while to sink in. We had mixed results in this race, which was extremely tough, but we pulled through and look forward to a few days away before we start our preparations for Dakar.”
The competitive action got underway with a Prologue stage of 3.56km. Ramos carded the quickest time of 3min 07.15sec, but Porém was handily placed in second, just 2.68 seconds behind his Portuguese rival. Ré and Halpern completed the Prologue in seventh and 11th positions and Barbosa and Alvarez were 12th and 14th of the 48 starters in the FIA section.
The first of the selective sections ran for 76.80km and Ramos extended his lead over Porém to 8.68 seconds at the overnight halt with another fastest time. South Racing’s lead driver held second and Ré, Halpern and Alvarez were sixth, ninth and 16th.
Barbosa suffered a broken chassis and incurred heavy time penalties, dropping the Portuguese to 45th overall at the night halt. But the former winner was not able to continue in the damaged ASX.
The meat of the action took place over two demanding selective sections of 205.50km and 160.11km on Saturday. Both Porém and Halpern began the opening stage strongly and held first and second positions at PC1, after 148.66km, with the Portuguese storming into a virtual outright lead after Ramos hit trouble and retired.
Porém lost his front bumper but maintained his lead to complete the stage in 2hrs 47min 58sec and took an outright advantage of 6min 54sec into the last timed section. Halpern tore a wheel off his Toyota, lost second position and nearly two hours and Ré also ripped a wheel off his Ford Ranger and was forced out of the event. Alvarez, however, maintained an impressive pace to hold sixth overall, as Halpern plummeted to 27th position and then retired.
Because of the presence of dust the last stage was delayed by 30 minutes for safety reasons. At the first passage control, after 86.48km, Spinelli was running 42 seconds quicker than Porém, but the Portuguese was managing a virtual overall advantage of 6min 12sec to perfection.
Alvarez moved up to fifth at the expense of Russia’s Boris Gadasin before slipping back to sixth on the final stage, but his team-mate held on to claim a fourth successive victory in the final round of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies, despite ceding the final stage win to Spinelli.
31st Baja Portalegre 500 – final positions:
1. Ricardo Porém (PRT)/Hugo Magalhães (PRT) South Racing Ford Ranger 5hrs 35min 29sec
2. Guilherme Spinelli (BRA)/Youssef Haddad (BRA) Mini All4 Racing 5hrs 41min 13sec
3. Boris Garafulic (CHL)/Filipe Palmeiro (PRT) Mini All4 Racing 5hrs 52min 36sec
4. Luis Recueneco (ESP)/Manuel Dominguez (ESP) Toyota Hilux 5hrs 56min 16sec
5. Nuno Matos (PRT)/Pedro Marcio (PRT) Opel Mokka Proto 6hrs 00min 21sec
6. Fernando Alvarez (ESP)/Juan Pablo Monasterolo (ARG) Volkswagen Amarok 6hrs 01min 44sec
7. Luis Dias (PRT)/Mario Feio (PRT) Nissan Wd01 6hrs 03min 01sec
8. Lino Carpeta (PRT)/Rui António (PRT) Range Rover Evoque Proto 6hrs 15min 41sec
DNF. Sebastian Halpern (ARG)/Eduardo Pulenta (ARG) South Racing Toyota Hilux
DNF. Miguel Barbosa (PRT)/Miguel Ramalho (PRT) Mitsubishi ASX
DNF. Alexandre Ré (PRT)/Pedro Ré (PRT) South Racing Ford Ranger