Baja TT Capital dos Vinhos de Portugal: SxS amazing race won by Marco Silva

Marco Silva
Since the very beginning of the SxS category, once called Buggy and UTV (actually called SSV), these small machines were inside the Motorbike Federation. This allowed for less complicated rules and especially less expensive. In the early days these were slow moving machines and not particularly reliable, but then evolution stroke, and it did so hard that from the red lights of the caravan they became the flash lights and are now an extreme success story.

The entry list has drivers with varied backgrounds, from experienced in the category to many newcomers who has raced in rally, circuit, bikes, quads and even people from car category. As a bonus, many drivers who had stopped racing returned and others who have never raced before finally had their chance to feel the “smell of gasoline”.

So, let us now speak about the Baja TT Portugal’s Wine Capital, held on 26 and 27 May in Reguengos de Monsaraz, Alentejo.
Let’s start with a number:  63.  This was the number of teams who made their entries for the fourth round of the Portuguese championship. This race is loved by many drivers and fans, and usually gets good entry lists in the cars. The growth of the SxS category in general means that also this class will show up in large numbers.

The race started on Saturday morning, with an 8 km prologue to warm up the teams and define the starting order for the first special stage. Regardless of the results of each and every racer, the absolute control of the race was taken by the drivers with Can-Am in the top 30 we found 24 of these vehicles and just a few others, scattered along the list.
Leading the operations was João Dias, followed very closely by Vitor Santos (2nd) and João Monteiro (3rd). But to be fair, all the others were close, in fact just under a 1 minute from the 1st we could find 38 teams. And only one very unlucky driver was more distant than 2 minutes.

Trying to guess who could be on top at the end of the first day was a very hard task. Even if the driving style (more or less aggressive and more or less controlled) was different between many drivers, their speed was almost equal, and the fate should be decided not on pure speed but instead should be the track to claim some cars, either by breakdown, flat tyres or accidents.

The 76 km of SS1 to be raced on Saturday afternoon could be associated by many to the vastness of the Alentejo plains, and the open spaces where you can let your engine enjoy himself in high revs and look with a smile to your speed indicator showing you the top speed of your vehicle.  But the organization had other plans on their mind, they prepared a very technical track, with many narrow sections, lots and lots of corners in the middle of the olive trees or ‘azinheiras’ forests (an oak species very common of this region of Portugal).

After the stage, the Can-Am drivers continued to show total domination of the race, not allowing anyone close to the top six positions.  First was João Dias, second Pedro Carvalho and third was Vitor Santos. The 6th was Ricardo Carvalho, the first from the “others” with his new Yamaha XYZ Turbo, and he is a pretty fast driver.

Ricardo Carvalho, the first “non” Can-Am driver on his Yamaha

SS2, with a length of 138 km, was raced on Sunday morning, with the final 76 km being exactly the same as the pervious day. If the knowledge of the final part could mean a little bit more speed and a more relaxed drive, the first kilometres were even more demanding and technical, with even more narrow sections and more trees. On the positive side, the rain of the previous days reduced the amount of dust, allowing cleaner view of the track.

After 40 km of racing, at the first CP of the special, from the 1st to the 25th the gap was only two minutes, with Marco Silva leading the race in his Can-Am.  Just 5 seconds under was Ivo Nogueira in another of those Canadian vehicles.

At this point in the race, the rhythm was high, and also the changes in the classification were many.  João Dias was also forced to stop and lost 5 minutes before returning to the race.
At the next CP, at Km 90 the gaps finally started to open. Henrique Nogueira climbed from 5th to first and forcing Marco Silva to drop to second place in the stage classification. But after just a few kilometres Nogueira was forced to stop, too. Pedro Carvalho who passed CP4 in 6th (3rd overall) retired due to a crash. Ruben Faria (a former Dakar rider) took advantage of the problems ahead and finished the stage 4th. Marco Silva won the special, João Monteiro finished second and Ivo Nogueira (Henrique’s brother) finished third.

After a very exciting and unpredictable race, Marco Silva took the winner’s trophy into his hands.  Vitor Santos finished second and João Monteiro third.

Vitor Santos, second overall

As a footnote, just a short comparison with the cars. This final sector of 138 km was exactly the same for the cars, and in a joint classification the first SxS would have been 5th overall, followed the others in 6th, 7th, 8th and 9thpositions. Finally, in 10th should be another car, in this case Paulo Ferreira (Toyota Hilux Overdrive) and in 11th Pedro Ferreira (Ford Ranger).
The Championship will now make the long summer break, returning only on 7-8 September  with Baja TT Idanha-a-Nova.

But summer will not mean vacation for many, because they will gather for the second round of the Super SSV Trophy next month. If you want to come to this race and challenge the Portuguese squadron, send us an email, as we are the official partners of the series and can help you if you dare to come

Source and images: Rally-Raid Nerwork