Cross-Country – Al-Rajhi/Gottschalk head entry as Baja Greece joins FIA World Baja Cup for first time


Baja Greece joined the FIA European Cup for Cross-Country Bajas in 2022 and it takes its place at the expense of the Italian Baja as the second round of the FIA World Baja Cup for the first time on May 23rd-25th.

Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi and his German co-driver Timo Gottschalk lead a 20-car field that includes four vehicles in the Ultimate category and eight in both the Challenger and SSV sections. 

One of the longest and most demanding Bajas in Europe, the event will reach an altitude of 1,900 metres in the mountainous Vitsi area of western Macedonia using twisty mountain tracks, dense beech forests and fast roads across a plateau.

With the new regulations giving a co-efficient to each category - dependant on how many entries are received - drivers in both the popular Challenger and SSV categories have excellent chances of challenging for honours in the overall championship.

João Dias and Fernando Alvarez are currently tied on 40 points apiece, having topped the registered FIA World Baja Cup runners in their respective Challenger and SSV categories at round one in Saudi Arabia.

Yazeed Al-Rajhi and João Ferreira finished first and second overall in Ha’il and topped the rankings in the Ultimate category but are third and equal fourth in the Drivers’ Championship, Ferreira tying on 33 points with Diego Martinez and Alexander Toril.

The South Racing Can-Am Team leads Overdrive Racing by seven points in the Teams’ Championship. Santag Racing are third and the X-Raid Mini JCW Team and the Escuderia JMP Team are tied in fourth. 

Al-Rajhi (Toyota Hilux Overdrive) faces Ultimate competition from Czech veteran Miroslav Zapletal (Ford F-150) and fellow Toyota drivers Magdalene Zajac and Akira Miura in Greece. The Japanese has been a regular face on the Dakar Rally since 2007 and won the T2 (now Stock) class in 2018, 2021 and 2022 with the Toyota Auto Body Team before joining Overdrive Racing for this foray into the world of European events. 

Ferreira has switched from the Ultimate category to race a Can-Am Factory Team Maverick X3 in northern Greece. He faces strong competition from a G Rally Team OT3 in the hands of Ghislain de Mévius, the South Racing Can-Am Team’s Diego Martinez, Spaniard Eduardo Pons (Taurus T3 Max) and Emirati privateer Khalid Al-Jafla (Can-Am) for championship points. Neither Lionel Baud and Adam Kus are registered for the FIA World Baja Cup in their OT3s and nor is Taurus driver Csaba Miklos.

Spaniard Fernando Alvarez tops the SSV entry in his South Racing Can-Am. He faces competition from Luis Henderson’s Polaris, Quaddy Racing’s Amerigo Ventura (Yamaha) and a pair of Escuderia JMP Racing Team Can-Ams in the hands of Alexander and Miguel Toril. Veteran Frenchman Claude Fournier and Saudi driver Ibrahim Al-Muhanna are also registered for points in their Can-Ams. 

The event is being organised by the Attica Motorsport Club, in conjunction with the Greek Automobile Club West Attica and the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sport. It is based out of the western Macedonian town of Argos Orestiko in the north of the country.

Competitors will tackle a 6.08km Prologue on Thursday (May 23rd) and then two demandingselective sections of 324.68km and 229.16km on Friday and Saturday.

Friday’s Mesopotamia special will be made up of two passes through a 162.34km section – the longest ever run in Greece - with two runs though the 114.58km of Mavrokampos making up the final day’s action. In a route of 817.36km, 559.92km will be timed against the clock.

The event will also use the new digital roadbook ‘Iris’ for the first time provided by partner Geotraq and the traditional ComBox GPS safety system.

11th Baja Greece– leading entries:

200. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Timo Gottschalk (DEU)                                    Toyota Hilux Overdrive

201. Miroslav Zapletal (CZE)/Marek Sykora (SVK)                                     

Ford F-150 Evo
202. Magdalena Zajac (POL)/Marcin Pasek (POL)                                     Toyota Hilux
203. Akira Miura (JPN)/Jean-Michel Polato (FRA)  Toyota Hilux Overdrive
300. João Ferreira (PRT)/Filipe Palmeiro (PRT)Can-Am Maverick X3
301. Ghislain de Mévius (BEL)/Johan Jalet (BEL) G Rally Team OT3
302. Khalid Al-Jafla (ARE)/Andrei Rudnitski (LTU)  Can-Am Maverick X3
303. Lionel Baud (FRA)/Lucie Baud (FRA)G Rally Team OT3*
304. Eduardo Pons (ESP)/Jaume Betriu (ESP)Taurus T3 Max
305. Csaba Miklos (HUN)/Alber Horn (HUN)  Taurus T3 Max*
306. Adam Kus (POL)/Marcin Pasek (POL)G Rally Team OT3*
307. Diego Martinez (ARG)/Sergio Lafuente (URY) Can-Am Maverick X3
400. Fernando Alvarez (ARG)/Xavier Panseri (FRA)Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR
401. Luis Henderson (URY)/Daniel Sposito (URY) Polaris RZR Pro R
402. Amerigo Ventura (ITA)/Erika Mingozzi (ITA)Yamaha YXZ 1000R 
403. Alex Toril (ESP)/Pedro Lopez (ESP) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR
404. Claude Fournier (FRA)/Serge Gounon (FRA)Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR
405. Miguel Toril (ESP)/Rosa Romero (ESP)Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR
406. Ibrahim Al-Muhana (SAU)/Faisal Al-Suwayh (SAU)Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR
407. Konstantin Cholakov (BGR)/Ivaylo Zhekov (BGR)Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR*
*denotes not registered for FIA World Baja Cup 

Timetable of events:

Wednesday, May 22  
Administration checks11.00-19.30, Rally HQ
Scrutineering checks12.00-20.30, Rally HQ
Thursday, May 23 
Pre-event press conference, Service Park14.20hrs
Ceremonial start, Argos Orestiko Square 20.30hrs onwards
Friday, May 24 
SS1 (Mesopotamia I – 162.34km) 07.56hrs – first car 
SS2 (Mesopotamia II – 162.34km)14.34hrs – first car 
Saturday, May 25 
SS3 (Mavrokampos I  – 114.58km)08.17hrs – first car 
SS4 (Mavrokampos II  – 114.58km)14.15hrs – first car 
Post-event press conference, Argos Orestiko Square20.30hrs
Podium ceremony, Argos Orestiko Square21.15hrs