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Peugeot Unveil 2024 FIA WEC Contender

Peugeot TotalEnergies have unveiled their upgraded Peugeot 9X8 which will compete in the Hypercar class for the remaining rounds of the 2024 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC). The upgrade includes a new livery, new tyre widths, and 90% of the bodywork being modified, most noticeably including a new rear wing.

The 2024 Peugeot 9X8 with that new rear wing. Credit: Stellantis / Peugeot Sport

When the Peugeot 9X8 arrived on the WEC stage in 2022, all eyes were drawn to its unique shape, missing as it did a rear wing. After a mixed season in 2023, the car’s final outing was at the 2024 Qatar 1812km. With the car’s design so heavily biased towards flat, open, fast circuits, the car performed well, battling for second position until disaster struck on the penultimate lap of the ten hour long race.

With regulation changes taking effect since the car’s debut, the potential to explore more performance has opened up. “Strictly speaking, it’s not a new car,” explained Olivier Jansonnie, Peugeot Sport Technical Director, “as it has the same chassis, but there are a lot of upgrades.”

Credit: Stellantis / Peugeot Sport

The team has switched from 31cm tyre widths on all tyres to 29cm width front tyres and 34cm width rear tyres, bringing them more in line with other Hypercar teams. “For the tyres to work effectively, we had to alter the centre of gravity of the Peugeot 9X8, which meant moving certain components and working making others lighter” Jansonnie explained. “And in order to have a better aerodynamic balance, we also had to look at redistributing the aerodynamic loads, which resulted in us redesigning approximately 90% of the bodywork components, most notably adding the rear wing.”

Thanks to its distinctive front end and air intake over the cockpit, the new 9X8 is still recognisably the Peugeot Hypercar. The car’s striking new livery features the lion head emblem of the French marque in different shapes and colours. Matthias Hossann, Peugeot Brand Design Director, explained that “this graphic design, symbolising a ‘pack of lions’, conveys the sense of collective that reflects the values of Endurance racing perfectly. We wanted to highlight this team spirit and the wealth of talent in the team.”

2024 BP Ultimate Rally-Raid: Carlos Jorge Mendes, Johan Senders complete race in Stock, Open

Carlos Jorge Mendes and Johan Senders were the BP Ultimate Rally-Raid‘s only entrants in the Stock and Open categories, respectively, meaning their only competition were the forests of Portugal and Spain and any mechanical gremlins that strike their vehicles. While the latter certainly happened a bit more than either would like, they were able to complete the race in the end.

Both cars started at the back behind the other FIA classes and ahead of the non-World Rally-Raid Championship National category, the latter run in tandem with the Portuguese Cross Country Championship. While they were able to complete the Prologue before damage done to the course forced the leg to be cancelled for National, the challenges quickly accumulated from there. Neither of them nor the National entrants were able to complete Stage #2 due to poor track conditions caused by heavy rain and those who raced before them, and estimated times were assigned for Mendes and Senders.

Mendes, nicknamed “Cajó”, and his navigator Rui Silva finished second in the CPTT’s T2 class, which ended its race after two stages, before joining the rest of the W2RC for the final three. Ironically, although rally raids are unforgiving for Stock vehicles and their Isuzu D-Max had gotten stuck during the early stages, they were able to complete the longest day in Stage #3 without major issue save for doing the last eighty kilometres with rear-wheel drive. By the end, Mendes’ total time was good for forty-seventh among all FIA cars.

“Mission accomplished. We faced an excellently organised race, with excellent stages marked by a variety of surfaces, with a large audience that never moved from the first to the last vehicle,” Mendes told AutoLook. “It was five unforgettable days with a lot of work, but we also had a lot of fun.”

Senders, a Dutchman and CPTT regular, and his Toyota Hilux set a final time fast enough to rank thirtieth in FIA. The Hilux is eligible for CPTT competition in the T8 category, but does not meet the FIA’s regulations for Ultimate (T1) or Stock (T2), forcing him to enter it into the Open class for vehicles outside specs. It was the first time a W2RC round had Open entries in 2024 and the fourth since the championship’s formation after the 2022 and 2023 Rallyes du Maroc and 2022 Andalucía Rally.

2024 BP Ultimate Rally-Raid: Kamil Wisniewski fends off CFMOTOs for first Quad win

After winning the Dakar Rally in the Quad category, Manuel Andújar was on track to go two-for-two in the 2024 World Rally-Raid Championship as he won the first four legs at the BP Ultimate Rally-Raid and led by over twenty-one minutes at the halfway mark.

A broken driveshaft ended any hopes of that.

Andújar was forced to retire from the fourth and penultimate stage when his driveshaft came loose while leading by three minutes with less than seventy kilometres to go. After losing twenty minutes whilst making repairs, he rejoined the stage and tried to make up the ground before crashing into a stopped bike. Even winning Stage #5 was not enough as he finished fourth overall.

Kamil Wiśniewski inherited both the Stage #4 and overall lead following Andújar’s problems. While Mikołaj Krysik ultimately won that leg for his maiden W2RC stage victory, he was too far back to catch the leaders entering the final day; much of his deficit was incurred on the first stage when he suffered a suspension failure while jumping into water, followed by a roll that damaged the navigation tower.

Wiśniewski faced pressure from the CFMOTO Thunder Racing Team duo of Antanas Kanopkinas and Gaëtan Martinez, both of whom trailed by identical margins of two minutes and twenty-eight seconds going into Stage #5. Unlike at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, his Yamaha Raptor did not let him down this time as he built a six-minute margin on the CFORCE 1000s, beating Kanopkinas by 5:49 and Martinez by 6:19.

2024 BP Ultimate Rally-Raid: Amaral brothers complete clean sweep of Rally3

Gonçalo Amaral and his older brother Salvador Amaral turned the BP Ultimate Rally-Raid‘s Rally3 class into the Amarally3 class as they finished 1–2 across all five stages.

Regulars in the Portuguese Cross Country Championship, Gonçalo and Salvador kept pace within each other throughout the race, with the former scoring three stage wins and the Prologue to the latter’s two. Gonçalo set the early edge as he cleared Salvador by fifteen and six-and-a-half minutes in Stages #1 and #2, respectively before Salvador returned the favour during the longest day with almost twelve minutes on him in Stage #3. The final two legs saw closer margins within a minute, though their classmates were still a long distance back.

Although Rally3 is the lowest bike class for adapted enduro and production bikes, Gonçalo’s Prologue time was still good to place him top ten overall for the leg. The two were also the only Rally3 riders with top twenty FIM times regardless of category with Gonçalo in seventeenth and Salvador three places back.

By the end, the younger Amaral beat Big Brother by under ten minutes but had over an hour and a half on third-placed Pedro Bianchi Prata. Bianchi, the reigning FIM Bajas World Cup Veterans Trophy winner, was in a hole from the beginning when the bike’s fuel injector broke during Stage #1, causing him to finish second-to-last in class and forty-four minutes back. He quickly made up the lost ground to pass everyone but the Amarals by Stage #3, and spent the second half of the rally duelling John Medina for the last podium spot. Despite crashing into a river crossing in Stage #4, Bianchi cleared Medina by seven minutes on the final leg for third.

“It was a very well-organised race by ACP (Automóvel Club de Portugal),” said Bianchi. “The routes in the Grândola and Santigo do Cacém are spectacular and the whole of Mação with difficult navigation was epic, then we went to Spain where the stage was quite hard with rocks and very technical and we came back on the sand of Grândola. It was five hard but unforgettable days.

2024 BP Ultimate Rally-Raid: Bruno Santos the home country hero in Rally2

Twice Portuguese Cross Country Champion and reigning Baja Portalegre 500 winner Bruno Santos brought more than just his A-game when the World Rally-Raid Championship came knocking on his door for the BP Ultimate Rally-Raid. Defending his turf like there was no tomorrow, he topped the Rally2 class with four stage victories and over twenty-one minutes on points-earning riders Bradley Cox and Romain Dumontier.

Cox initially drew first blood by beating every bike, including those in the premier RallyGP category, in Stage #1 until he received a twenty-minute penalty for leaving the neutralisation zone between Selective Sections too soon. Prologue winner Edgar Canet also made the same mistake, costing him twelve minutes and his early advantage.

Santos inherited the stage win as a result, but proved it was no fluke as he won the next three legs. He narrowly beat Cox by twenty-two seconds for the Stage #2 victory, then dropped a nearly eight-minute advantage in the third leg to lead by seventeen. A fourth win in Stage #4 made the margin an almost insurmountable 20:49 over Canet barring a retirement on the last day.

With such a big advantage, Santos was able to take the final day easier yet he still recorded a podium as he finished third and only a minute behind Dumontier. The overall adds to an increasingly impressive international rally raid résumé; after having to abort his Dakar Rally début in 2022 due to injury, he re-earned his eligibility for the 2024 race after finishing fifth in class in his maiden W2RC start at the 2023 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, then was the second-best rookie at Dakar in sixteenth.

“Several of my idols were in this race. I could hardly contain my excitement to realise that I was able to fight second by second over several days with these legends,” wrote Santos, who called the race “an astonishing week of competition”. “I know that I am probably at the peak of my sporting career right now, but let’s continue to push a little further, climbing the steps within our reach!”

2024 BP Ultimate Rally-Raid: Joao Monteiro wins SSV on home soil

João Monteiro is a two-time Portuguese Cross Country Champion, the reigning FIM European Bajas SSV champion, and was the best-finishing rookie at the Dakar Rally in January when he finished thirteenth in the Challenger class. When the World Rally-Raid Championship arrived in Portugal for the BP Ultimate Rally-Raid, he was more than ready to defend his home turf.

Usually a tyre manager for South Racing Can-Am, he represented the team well as he won the SSV category by leading the overall and finishing on the podium in all five stages. On his worst day in Stage #4, he made an error that caused him to lose a minute but still finished third and just a minute behind stage winner Ricardo Ramilo.

His first and second in the first two stages also earned him the T4 win on the CPTT side, held in conjunction with the W2RC. The win continues a streak of SSV race winners who are not registered for the W2RC, joining Xavier de Soultrait (Dakar Rally) and Mansour Al-Helei (Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge).

“We enter each race with the goal of winning, but when it comes to a World Championship race, everything becomes even more special,” wrote Monteiro. “I want to express my gratitude to the team for the excellent car they provided me, ready to face each stage. A huge thank you to my sponsors, whose support was essential for us to be here. To my family, who has always been by my side, and to the warmth and unconditional support of all the fans throughout these days, my sincere thanks.

“I am really happy!”

2024 BP Ultimate Rally-Raid: Rokas Baciuska survives for maiden Challenger win

Rokas Baciuška was the model of consistency at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge when he finished second across four of five stages, but it wasn’t enough to win the Challenger overall. While his BP Ultimate Rally-Raid finishes were more varied, he capitalised on his rivals’ mechanical troubles to score his first career win in the category.

Baciuška only recorded two podium finishes and even ended the race outside the top ten with an eleventh, but a Stage #3 win propelled him to the overall lead that he maintained across the final three days. He finished third in the first stage, but found himself fighting for position as he narrowly beat Paulo Jorge Rodrigues by two seconds to finish tenth in Stage #2.

At the front, Sébastien Loeb and João Dias were the stars of the show to start. Dias, who the reigning FIA European Baja Cup T3 champion, won the opening stage and went on to claim the T3 class overall on the Portuguese Cross Country Championship side.

Loeb, who finished third at the Dakar Rally in the Ultimate class, opted to drop down to Challenger for Portugal as Prodrive is focusing on developing the Dacia programme that will début at the season-ending Rallye du Maroc in October. Although new to the side-by-side class, he immediately made waves in his Taurus by winning Stage #2 and finishing just thirty-five seconds behind FIA overall stage and eventual rally winner Nasser Al-Attiyah.

Stage #3 ended up being their undoing as Loeb’s engine began to overheat while a gas pipe burst in Dias’ Can-Am Maverick. Loeb salvaged another stage win and a third in Stage #5, but finished outside the top ten overall. Dias notched a second in Stage #4 and settled for eighth. Although not the finish he wanted, Loeb described the Taurus as “fun to drive,” echoing sentiment shared by his longtime rival-turned-Prodrive colleague Al-Attiyah when he tested the car last July.

2024 BP Ultimate Rally-Raid: Tosha Schareina dominates in RallyGP

Tosha Schareina‘s first World Rally-Raid Championship season as a full-fledged member of Monster Energy Honda Rally Team started on a sour note when he crashed in the opening stage of the Dakar Rally. After he and the team skipped the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge (though he still kept busy by winning the FIM E-Xplorer World Cup season opener in Japan), the Spaniard got right back to work in the closest thing to a home race as he led the BP Ultimate Rally-Raid in Portugal from start to finish.

Schareina won the Prologue and never relinquished the lead from there. He added two more stage victories along the way, one of which came in the race’s leg crossing over into his native Spain. Although he finished outside the podium in Stages #2 and #4, he only barely missed out in both instances as Honda team-mate Skyler Howes held him off in both by just ten and fifteen seconds, respectively. He finished second to colleague Adrien Van Beveren on the fifth and final leg.

The win is his second in the W2RC after claiming the 2023 Desafío Ruta 40, but first as a registered championship rider. He is the tenth different points-earning rider to win a W2RC race since its inception in 2022.

“Super happy, super happy for my first victory in a world championship because a big part of the staff is Portuguese,” said Schareina. “Now it’s time to celebrate and think about the next one in Argentina.”

Sebastian Bühler, who also wrecked out of Dakar and missed Abu Dhabi as a result, returned to his home event with a strong outing as he scored his maiden W2RC stage victory. While he lost by a wide enough margin that a four-minute penalty in Stage #1 for missing a waypoint made little difference, a runner-up overall is still his first career podium finish.

2024 BP Ultimate Rally-Raid: Nasser Al-Attiyah takes Ultimate points lead

Nasser Al-Attiyah‘s quest for a third consecutive World Rally-Raid Championship started on the wrong foot when he retired from the Dakar Rally, but he seems to have regained his footing since. After winning the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge in February, he continued his newfound momentum with a victory in the inaugural BP Ultimate Rally-Raid.

Returning to Portugal, the site of his maiden race with Prodrive when he ran the Baja Portalegre 500 last October, Al-Attiyah won two stages and held off a late charge by João Ferreira to win by nearly three minutes. After winning the Prologue, Al-Attiyah had a relatively slow Stage #1 as he finished sixth before hitting his stride with back-to-back stage wins.

Yazeed Al-Rajhi trailed Al-Attiyah by just twenty seconds after Stage #2 but was eliminated by a rollover the following day, leaving Ferreira as the next closest rival. An SSV regular who switched to a Mini JCW Rally Plus for his home race, Ferreira sliced his deficit in half after Stage #4 to 2:41, but finished behind Al-Attiyah in the fifth and final stage. Ferreira also won the concurrent Portuguese Cross-Country Championship round that was run across the first two days.

With his win, Al-Attiyah moves past Ferreira’s Mini team-mate Carlos Sainz for the championship lead. His co-driver Édouard Boulanger, now two-for-two by his side, also assumes the top spot for his position.

“This was a very tricky rally and we had to be clever,” said Al-Attiyah. “Thank you to my co-driver Édouard and to Prodrive for the car. Now we have won two races and we’re leading the championship.”

2024 BP Ultimate Rally-Raid: Dumontier prevents Santos sweep in Stage 5

Bruno Santos entered the fifth and final stage of the BP Ultimate Rally-Raid with the Rally2 overall win in the bag, having won every leg in his class up to Sunday. While a clean sweep would certainly be nice, he opted to ride the 105-kilometre stretch at a safer pace, giving up going five-for-five to ice the overall.

Santos ultimately finished Stage #5 in third behind Romain Dumontier and Bradley Cox. Since he is not registered for the World Rally-Raid Championship like Dumontier and Cox, his conservative approach allowed them to scramble for points in the meantime. Dumontier, the reigning Rally2 champion, came out on top Sunday as he beat Cox by just thirty-one seconds and moved into third overall, though Cox still beat him by five minutes outright.

Like Dumontier, Nicolás Cavigliasso ended the rally with a stage win in Challenger, beating Luís Portela Morais and Sébastien Loeb by less than fifty seconds. Rokas Baciuška placed eleventh in just his second time finishing outside the Challenger top ten after recording an eleventh in Stage #1 of the Dakar Rally in January. In spite of this, his main rival Armindo Araújo finished further back in fifteenth to ice the overall class win for Baciuška.

João Ferreira needed to make up 2:41 to catch Nasser Al-Attiyah for the FIA win, but instead finished eight seconds behind him. Both placed behind Lucas Moraes for Stage #5, while Lionel Baud just missed out on a podium in fourth.

“Great to be able to finish this rally with a win, especially after what happened with us in Abu Dhabi,” said Moraes, whose Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge ended with his Toyota Hilux on fire. “Thanks to the whole Toyota team to deliver another great car. It was amazing to win today and finish third overall very close from the from the lead. Climbing the standings again.”

Carlos Tatay pursuing cross-country rally, Dakar Rally

A year after a back and spinal cord injury ended Carlos Tatay‘s burgeoning Grand Prix motorcycle racing career, he is ready to race again. This time, however, it will be behind the wheel of a Polaris RZR when he makes his cross-country rally début at the Baja España Aragón. Eventually, he hopes to make it to the Dakar Rally.

Tatay was paralysed in an accident during the 2023 Moto2 European Championship weekend at Portimão when he fell off his bike along the kerbs before sliding across the pavement into the tyre barrier, and the resulting injuries have forced him to use a wheelchair since. His recovery ended up sparking a legal battle between the Spanish and Valencian motorcycle federations over who would cover his insurance while undergoing treatment in Spain, leaving him on the hook for his medical bills. Tatay intends to file a lawsuit to end the saga.

The injury cut short a bright career for the Spaniard, who had won the 2019 Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup and finished third in that year’s CEV Moto3 Junior World Championship. He eventually reached the Moto3 World Championship, running the full calendar from 2020 to 2022 with a pole and podium in Indonesia during his final season en route to placing fifteenth in points. Tatay switched to the Moto2 European Championship for 2023 and won at Jerez the race before his accident.

“I was living the life I dreamed of, I was living what I loved, I was going to join the Moto2 World Championship for three years, and now being like this is tough,” Tatay told RTVE in February. “But you have to rebuild yourself and take the positive from every situation. There’s no other way to do it or you’ll live completely sunk. It’s hard to always find positive things, but they exist.

In his case, the positive is a chance to pursue one of the world’s most famous off-road races. While rally raid is certainly a challenging discipline, many have been able to compete despite their conditions such as fellow Spaniards Isidre Esteve and Albert Llovera, both of whom raced the latest Dakar Rally in January despite being paralysed below the waist. The Spanish Cross-Country Rally Championship (CERTT), which includes the Baja Aragón, has the ParaBaja Step by Step category for racers with reduced mobility.

Toys For Trucks continuing partnership with Dylan Parsons for 2024

After finishing fourth in points in his Pro SPEC rookie campaign Dylan Parsons has expanded his partnership with Toys For Trucks for the 2024 Championship Off-Road season.

Toys For Trucks first appeared on Parsons’ #99 truck for the penultimate round of 2023 Crandon. He finished fifth on Saturday in the points-paying World Championship Races event, then improved to a third on Sunday in his category’s Polaris World Cup event. They remained with him for the finale at MidAmerica Outdoors; despite having never raced at the Oklahoma track prior to the weekend, he enjoyed a career-best finish of second behind Nick Visser.

Parsons wrapped up the year with Rookie of the Year honours. He also notched three straight third-place finishes in Dirt City Race #2 and both Bark River races.

“I am grateful for the support of Toys For Trucks and our other partners as we gear up for another exciting season of racing,” said Parsons. “Their commitment to excellence mirrors our own, and I am confident that together, we will continue to compete at the highest level and make our mark in the world of off-road racing.”

He graduated to the Pro classes in 2023 after being one of the top drivers in 1600 Single Buggy, winning the 2021 championship and finishing runner-up the following year. The Checkered Flag spoke with Parsons prior to his maiden Pro SPEC season.

2024 BP Ultimate Rally-Raid: Maio, Yamaha win Stage 4

Yamaha might have folded their international rally raid programme following the 2022 Dakar Rally, but that doesn’t mean the Yamaha WR450F Rally can no longer make an impact in the World Rally-Raid Championship. A late run by Portugal native António Maio propelled him to the Stage #4 victory in his home country’s BP Ultimate Rally-Raid, marking the first bike stage win for Yamaha since 2021.

Maio took the stage lead in the final seventy kilometres after Honda’s Tosha Schareina, who had dominated for much of the the day, opted to race conservatively and “take good care of the material because it was a stage of wear and tear for the machine.” He had been chasing down Schareina in the first half and narrowed the gap to thirty-four seconds through the halfway mark before overtaking him, then held off Honda’s Adrien Van Beveren to win by twenty-nine seconds.

Coincidentally, Van Beveren used to race for Yamaha’s factory team until their shutdown. Van Beveren also scored the marque’s last stage win prior to Saturday when he won thrice en route to the overall at the 2021 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, the final race for the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship prior to its reorganisation into the W2RC. Maio races for Yamaha’s Portuguese branch with factory support, albeit not to the degree that Van Beveren enjoyed during his time with the manufacturer. Yamaha still maintains an official presence in the discipline via the Ténéré Yamaha Rally Team, which enters independent rallies with the Ténéré bike rather than the WR450F.

Schareina settled for fourth, but still finished ahead of Sebastian Bühler to maintain an overall lead of four-and-a-half minutes entering the final day.

In an opposite of Schareina’s day, Manuel Andújar‘s win streak in Quad was cut short when his driveshaft broke while leading by three minutes. He rejoined the race twenty minutes later only to crash into a stopped bike; Quad classmate Gaëtan Martinez stopped to provide assistance. By the end, he finished a dismal seventh in class and lost the overall to Kamil Wiśniewski, now sitting fourth and fourteen minutes off the podium.

2024 BP Ultimate Rally-Raid: Drivers fall in cross-border Stage 3

Stage #3 of the BP Ultimate Rally-Raid took the World Rally-Raid Championship across borders from Grândola, Portugal, to Badajoz, Spain. The longest stage of the race at 388 kilometres, it was certainly a long day for much of the field.

After the muddy debacle over the first two days, some were unable to even begin the leg. Aliyyah Koloc retired after her team was unable to repair her damaged engine, while getting stuck in the mud led to a myriad of mechanical issues for Gonçalo Guerreiro that forced him to drop out. Stage #2 SSV winner Yasir Seaidan suffered a string of vehicle problems at the start of the leg. Eduard Pons‘ Ultimate début was cut short by the belt and alternator support breaking just eight kilometres in.

Vaidotas Žala exited following a bizarre development in which a team member tasked with refuelling inadvertently poured the gasoline into a container that previously held oil, contaminating the fuel cell when it went into the car and causing the engine to lose fuel pressure ten kilometres after the start. His Mini allies João Ferreira and Carlos Sainz had more luck as they finished third and fourth, albeit not a fully clean day as both received speeding penalties; Sainz’s car also took a beating, losing his hood and breaking a windshield wiper which greatly reduced his visibility.

Yazeed Al-Rajhi posed the greatest challenger to overall leader Nasser Al-Attiyah when he entered Friday trailing by just twenty seconds in the overall. Al-Rajhi took the lead as the stage hit the 100-km mark, only for his hopes to be dashed when he slid into a ditch and rolled onto his passenger’s side door. While his Toyota Hilux was able to reach the finish, marathon rules for the bivouac mean the crash could come back to haunt him on Saturday. Toyota colleague Lucas Moraes inherited the lead but had to slow his pace due to a tyre puncture, which Al-Attiyah capitalised on to win. Moraes’ Toyota Gazoo Racing team-mate Saood Variawa was handed a two-hour penalty and a suspended disqualification for speeding multiple times in a Speed Control Zone that mandated a limit of 50 km/h; his navigator François Cazalet explained he was feeling dizzy and was unaware they had entered the zone, so he told his driver to continue at his usual pace.

Sébastien Loeb and João Dias, who were top two overall in Challenger after Stage #2, both experienced vehicle trouble—Loeb in particular had an overheating engine—that ended their hopes of winning. Rokas Baciuška narrowly edged out Luís Portela Morais by two seconds to win the stage in the class and take the lead; both drivers’ final times were even faster than Moraes’ and Ferreira’s to finish second and third among all FIA cars. A similar development happened the previous day when Al-Attiyah held off Loeb for the outright stage victory by half a minute.

2024 BP Ultimate Rally-Raid: Bernardo Sousa leads locals with National win

The BP Ultimate Rally-Raid marked the World Rally-Raid Championship‘s maiden trip to Portugal, and one can bet their butt that the country, already one of the biggest hotbeds for cross-country rally in Europe, would turn out in force. The National class, filled almost exlusively with Portuguese competitors, ran the first three Selective Sections and two days alongside the W2RC while the race was still in the country.

By the end, Bernardo Sousa led a 1–2 finish for Benimoto Racing‘s Can-Am Mavericks. Sousa, a longtime rally driver who has competed in the World and European Rally Championships as well as the domestic series, set the fastest time in both Selective Sections that comprised Stage #1 on Wednesday.

Although he finished fourth in the shortened third and final SS, held Thursday in Stage #2, he still beat his Benimoto colleague Filipe Cameirinha by six minutes in the overall.

The National class started each stage well after everybody else, which created a nightmare situation when rainy weather the previous week resulted in a very muddy course that was further damaged by those who went before them. National cars were unable to race the Prologue on Wednesday morning because the artificial track set up in the outskirts of Grândola was filled with ruts from the W2RC vehicles. The remainder of SS3 was called off for the same reason as the National field was unable to make it beyond the twenty-ninth kilometre, and final times were handed out by extrapolating their position at the moment the race was stopped.

Edgar Condesso‘s Ford PROTO joined Sousa and Cameirinha on the overall podium as the T1 winner. While a win is certainly something to celebrate, he described it as having a “bittersweet taste” due to the weather forcing the final day’s abbreviation.