Cross-Country - Spanish duo Pons/Betrui guide their Taurus T3 Max to victory at Baja Greece

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2024 FIA World Baja Cup - 11th Baja Greece Off-Road (round 2/8) - Post-event report

Eduardo Pons (ESP)/Jaume Betriu (ESP) Taurus T3 Max

The Spanish pairing of Eduardo Pons and Jaume Betriu threw the form book upside down to claim a shock victory at the 11th Baja Greece, round two of the FIA World Baja Cup.
Based out of the northern Greek town of Argos Orestiko, the three-day event from May 23 to 25 offered two passes through a pair of demanding selective sections that featured water crossings, slippery mountainous terrain, tight corners and narrow tracks that gave a slight advantage to the nimbler cars competing in the Challenger and SSV categories. 
Pons guided his Taurus T3 Max into the outright lead on the second stage when the Belgian opening stage winner Ghislain de Mévius suffered electrical issues after his G Rally Team OT3 ingested water at a ford. Consistent stage performances from then on netted the Spaniard a memorable win by a massive margin of 13min 05.2sec and maximum points in the Challenger category. 
Pons said: “We did it, finally. I drove conservative on the last stage and we won the rally. We are so happy and Jaume (Betriu) made an amazing job. We are more than happy to win Baja Greece.”
The father and son duo of Lionel and Lucie Baud stepped down from the Ultimate class to drive a G Rally Team OT3 and the transition was a successful one with the Frenchman netting second overall, although he was not registered for FIA World Baja Cup points. Stopping to change a puncture on the third stage cost the crew around five minutes. 
Japanese driver Akira Miura was making his first appearance in the Ultimate class in an Overdrive Racing Toyota Hilux after spending much of his career achieving success with the Japanese manufacturer in the Stock category at the Dakar Rally and beyond. 

He and French co-driver Jean-Michel Polato were just one second behind Czech veteran Miroslav Zapletal and his Slovakian co-driver Marek Sykora before the final stage and managed to regain third, claim the final podium spot and Ultimate class success. Zapletal finished 39.2 seconds adrift in his self-built Offroadsport Ford F-150. 
Miura said: “This was my first time in Greece. The car was so different to T2, very fast and controllable, but I still need to understand this car better and improve my skills. Next is Qatar (Baja) for me but I consider today a new starting point and I’ll continue to work hard.”
A late charge by Spain’s Alex Toril and Pedro López in their Can-Am saw them climb from seventh to finish fifth and snatch the SSV category victory from Fernando Alvarez and Xavier Panseri of the South Racing Can-Am Team. 
But the crew were disqualified from the results after final scrutineering when the Stewards deemed that the inlet manifold and the belt of the CVT device were deemed to be non-compliant with technical regulations. Alvarez moved up to sixth, is now ahead in the points’ standings and also leads the overall FIA World Baja Cup.
Alvarez said: “In the last part of the special, we got a puncture and had to stop and change the tyre. We lost time to Alex (Toril) but we are happy. Even with second place (before scrutineering), we are still leading the category and the overall in the cars. This is the business.”

The Hungarian duo of Csaba Miklos and Albert Horn were not registered for the FIA World Baja Cup but reached the end in fifth in a Taurus T3 Max, 1min 40.3sec in front of sixth-placed Alvarez. 
Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi and his German co-driver Timo Gottschalk headed the 18-car FIA field at the start of the event but suffered serious brake issues, a cracked brake disc and dropped 45 minutes on the opening stage. Overheating thwarted a second-stage fightback but the Saudi did recover strongly on the final day, despite a third-stage puncture, and climbed from 12th to finish seventh overall and third in the Ultimate class with the quickest time on the last stage.
Miguel Toril and his Qatari co-driver Nasser Al-Kuwari finished eighth in the second of the Escuderia JMP Racing Can-Ams.
Argentina’s Diego Martinez picked up points for second in the Challenger category in his South Racing Can-Am. He and Uruguayan co-driver Sergio Lafuente finished nimth overall and moved into the outright lead in the Challenger points’ standings. 
Emirati Khalid Al-Jafla and French veteran Claude Fournier brought their Can-Ams to the finish in 10th and 11th overall. De Mévius recovered from his second stage electrical issues to set the fastest time on the third stage, the second quickest time on the final test and was classified in 12th. 
The first of two passes through the slightly shortened Mesopotamia stage on Friday ruined João Ferreira’s chance of claiming the win. He left the track in his Can-Am, had to wait for assistance, was unable to complete the stage and incurred time penalties as a result. The Portuguese brought up the rear of the field in 13th place.
The result also throws the Teams’ Championship wide open with the South Racing Can-Am Team and Overdrive Racing in the hunt for honours with six rounds to go and ahead of the Escuderia JMP Team. 
Italian SSV driver Amerigo Ventura rolled his Yamaha and damage to the YXZ’s roll cage meant the Italian was unable to continue. 
Magdalena Zajac (Toyota Hilux) and Konstantin Cholakov (Can-Am) retired after stage two and Uruguay’s Luis Henderson withdrew his Polaris before the last stage after losing an hour in SS3.
Ibrahim Al-Muhanna was disqualified by the Stewards before the start on safety grounds when part of the roll cage in his Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR was found to be damaged. 
The third round of the FIA World Baja Cup takes competitors to the punishing heat of Teruel for the Baja Spain Aragón on July 26th-28th. 


11th Baja Greece – final positions: 
1. Eduardo Pons (ESP)/Jaume Betriu (ESP) Taurus T3 Max7hr 50min 46.4sec
2. Lionel Baud (FRA)/Lucie Baud (FRA) G Rally Team OT38hr 03min 51.6sec*
3. Akira Miura (JPN)/Jean-Michel Polato (FRA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive8hr 07min 53.8sec
4. Miroslav Zapletal (CZE)/Marek Sykora (SVK) Ford F-150 Evo8hr 08min 32.9sec
5. Csaba Miklos (HUN)/Albert Horn (HUN) Taurus T3 Max 8hr 27min 33.6sec*
6. Fernando Alvarez (ARG)/Xavier Panseri (FRA) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR8hr 29min 13.9sec
7. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Timo Gottschalk (DEU) Toyota Hilux Overdrive8hr 43min 50.2sec
8. Miguel Toril (ESP)/Nasser Al-Kuwari (QAT) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR8hr 44min 38.8sec
9. Diego Martinez (ARG)/Sergio Lafuente (URY) Can-Am Maverick X38hr 50min 59.7sec
10. Khalid Al-Jafla (ARE)/Andrei Rudnitski (LTU) Can-Am Maverick X39hr 13min 22.9sec
11. Claude Fournier (FRA)/Serge Gounon (FRA) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR9hr 22min 38.6sec
12. Ghislain de Mévius (BEL)/Johan Jalet (BEL) G Rally Team OT310hr 25min 09.0sec
13. João Ferreira (PRT)/Filipe Palmeiro (PRT) Can-Am Maverick X311hr 22min 55.1sec
*denotes not registered for FIA World Baja Cup