Portugal becomed the off-road racing capital of the world this weekend with the occasion of the 34th Baja Portalegre 500. The famous race has been moved to November from its usual date on the last weekend of October.
The Baja Portalegre 500, which is organized by the Automobile Club de Portugal (ACP), is back in the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Bajas since it left in 2013. Following the numerous covid-19 cancellations in this season championship calendar (Jordan, Italy, Spain, Hungary and Dubai), the Baja Portalegre 500 is now the third appointment of the year after Russia and Poland. The legendary Baja was created by his compatriot Jose Megre in the 80s.
After that, and if the global pandemic allows it, there will be only one more double appointment in Saudi Arabia (December 10-12 y 14-16) before the end of this most unusual championship. Portugal will be host to a great number of local and international participants, both in the two-wheel categories as well as in the four-wheel one. This gives the race a truly global dimension and the opportunity to showcase the beautiful Alentejo region to the world.
In total, the Baja Portalegre 500 will have four sectors for automobiles with a total distance of 600 km, 450 of which will be timed, two on Friday and the same on Saturday. In motorcycles, the entire route will be slightly shorter, about 550 km, 420km of which will be timed.
An intense fight is to be expected between the Russian Vladimir Vasiliev (Mini Countryman) and the Belgian Bernhard Ten Brinke (Toyota Hilux) in the car category. Both drivers are engaged in an ongoing struggle for the lead of the standings, currently held by the former. The Tver-born driver has clearly warned of his intentions to fight for the win: “Our plan for this race is to win.”
‘The Portuguese Armada’ vs Vasiliev
Vasiliev and his X-Raid team, however, will not have a smooth ride to the finish line. Apart from Ten Brinke, the Russian will meet with strong opposition from ‘The Portuguese Armada’, whose members are running as top favourites. Understandably, the local pilots will be eager to conquer the victory before their countrymen.
Among them, Miguel Barbosa will be looking for his fourth triumph of the season with which to celebrate the conquest of his eighth success at the Portuguese championship. “I am very happy to be able to participate in the Baja Portoalegre; the king of off-road events. The entry list is impressive, and although the rain will make things difficult, I believe it will be a great race”.
His greatest rival will be Joao Ramos, this time accompanied by Filipe Palmeiro, since his usual co-pilot, Vitor Jesus, will be absent from the Baja due to health reasons.
Along with the above contenders will be Ricardo Porem, who could not miss this appointment for the world on his return to the competition. Onboard a Borgward, he will seek his fifth victory at the Portuguese round to match Filipe Campos’ record wins.
Regrettably, fans will not be able to attend the race since the country is under stringent restrictions in order to avoid possible infections.
Images: Baja Portalegre 500