South Racing faces one of the busiest weekend’s in its hectic rallying calendar when the German preparations company runs five cars in the 31st Baja Portalegre 500, Portugal’s final round of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies.
The team will run Portuguese drivers Ricardo Pórem and Alexandre Ré, Spaniard Fernando Alvarez, Argentina’s Sebastien Halpern and Czech driver Tomáš Ouřednīček on the Portalegre-based event, which starts on Thursday evening (October 26th) and runs through until Saturday (October 28th).
Pórem heads to Portalegre as the current leader of the 2017 Portuguese National Championship of Cross-Country Rallies (CNTT). The Ford Ranger driver and navigator Hugo Magalhães claimed victories in Baja Capital Dos Vinhos de Portugal and Baja Idanha-da-Nova, finished runner-up in Baja de Loulé but retired from Baja do Pinhal.
That means the three-time winner of Baja Portalegre (2014, 2015 and 2016) arrives at the start of the penultimate round of the series with a 24-point lead in the local series over Alexandre Ferreira (54 points). Rui Sousa is third with 44 points and Alejandro Martins (40 points) and João Ramos (39 points) round off the top five. Twenty-five points are available to the winner of the rally, in addition to bonus points for winners of the Prologue and individual special stages. Pórem also leads the Iberian Cup, a series run jointly between the Spanish and Portuguese federations.
Spaniard Fernando Alvarez and his Argentinean co-driver Juan Pablo Monasterolo wheel out their new Volkswagen Amarok for the second time, while the Czech duo of Tomáš Ouřednīček and David Křipal enter their usual South Racing CE Ford Ranger. Alvarez used the Amarok to good effect in August when he claimed the final podium place on Brazil’s daunting Rally dos Sertões.
The Argentinean pairing of Sebastien Halpern and Eduardo Pulenta make a rare European appearance in a Toyota Hilux and the Portuguese pairing of Alexandre Ré and Pedro Ré drive a third South Racing-run Ford Ranger.
Halpern’s last appearance with the team was at Desafio Ruta 40 Nord back in August and he held a podium position for three days. He also finished fourth in Desafio Ruta 40 Sur back in April.
South Racing has also prepared a Mitsubishi ASX in collaboration with Wevers Sport for the experienced Portuguese duo of former event winners Miguel Barbosa and Miguel Ramalho.
“I guess this is now our home race with the team’s main facilities now in Portugal,” said South Racing’s managing director Scott Abraham. “We have a very strong driver line-up this year and, with Ricardo leading the championship, we can’t let up and we have to close the deal. Alexandre Ré had a strong finish last year and we will have done some testing before the event as well.
“Sebastien Halpern will be running with us in his Toyota. He’s coming off a disappointing year in South America but he has the potential to surprise a few of the front-runners. Fernando will run the new car for the first time in Europe. It is the 2018 specification car with the new wheel travel and weight regulations. I’m sure, based on his recent performances, he’ll put on a strong show.
“We have also prepared the car for Miguel Barbosa, a Mitsubishi ASX in collaboration with Wevers Sport. He has run the event numerous times and will be looking for a strong result.”
The event is managed by Clube Aventura under the auspices of Automóvel Club de Portugal (ACP). After scrutineering and administration checks on Thursday afternoon (October 26), teams will attend the official start ceremony in Portalegre’s Jardim do Terro from 21.30hrs.
The competitive action gets underway with a short super special stage of 5.62km from 10.30hrs on Saturday morning and precedes the opening selective section of 83.94km from 15.00hrs.
The bulk of the action is centred around two selective sections of 171.47km and 211.94km, starting at 08.00hrs and 13.30hrs, on Sunday. In a compact route of 638.41km, 472.97km will be timed against the clock.