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Toyota's Al-Attiyah and Baumel extend their FIA World Cup leads with victory at Baja Spain Aragón


Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Andorra-based co-driver Mathieu Baumel extended their leads in the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas Drivers’ and Co-drivers’ Championships with a hard-earned victory at Baja Spain Aragón.

The Toyota Gazoo Racing DKR Hilux crew saw off a fierce challenge on the fourth round of the series from the Brazilian duo of Lucas Moraes and Kaique Bentivoglio to secure victory by 1min 43.2sec.  The success marked a sixth win for Al-Attiyah in Spain and a fifth with Baumel.

Al-Attiyah said: “This is a fantastic result for myself and Mathieu and it puts us in a really strong position in the FIA World Cup after four rounds with three wins and one second place.”

Moraes had been a revelation with a podium finish on his first Dakar Rally back in January and the young Brazilian pushed Al-Attiyah all the way, led after the opening day and eventually reached the finish in second place in his Overdrive Racing Toyota Hilux.

Moraes added: “I cannot thank this team enough. They delivered an amazing car for the whole race. It was an amazing opportunity for me to drive with this team. Last year we got third, this year we got second behind the G.O.A.T.. Maybe next year we can move one step further. Kaique did an amazing job. The pace we kept was unbelievable. We had a blast!”

The Unique Racing Team’s Vaidotas Zala and co-driver Paulo Fiuza sealed the final podium position in their X-raid-built Mini JCW Rally Plus. The Lithuanian recorded the fourth quickest time on the final stage to displace the Portuguese pairing of João Ferreira and Filipe Palmeiro, who slipped to fourth overall in their X-raid Mini JCW Team Rally Plus.

Tiago Reis and Valter Cardosa finished fifth overall in their Toyota Hilux.

M-Sport has teamed up with Neil Woolridge Motorsport and Ford to develop a new car for cross-country rallying. Two Rangers were entered in Spain for Joan ‘Nani’ Roma and co-driver Alex Haro and the South African pairing of Gareth Woolridge and Boyd Dreyer. Roma had won the event on five occasions previously on four wheels after previous successes as a motorcycle rider.

The pair were classified in sixth and 14th through the opening Prologue and sixth and 16th through the first stage. Eighth and ninth-place finishes in the second stage lifted the Ranger duo to fourth and 12th in the general classification and a solid run through the final stage enabled Roma to finish the team’s first event with a fine sixth overall. Woolridge came home in 11th place.  

Poland’s Krzysztof Holowczyc and Lukasz Kurzeja crewed the second of three X-raid Mini JCW Team Rally Plus machines and boosted their title challenges by finishing seventh. Argentina’s Sebastien Halpern brought the third car home in 15th.

Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Timo Gottschalk had won the last round of the FIA World Cup in Italy, but suffered two time-consuming flat tyres on the first stage and then incurred a three-minute time penalty for an overtaking infringement. From then on, the Saudi was playing catch up and the third quickest time on stages two and three lifted the duo to an eventual eighth overall. 

Lithuania’s Rokas Baciuška made his debut in the T1+ category after several seasons racing in side-by-sides and the youngster finished ninth overall. Overdrive Racing team-mate Francisco Barata Barreto of Portugal rounded off the top 10, while fellow Toyota driver Juan Cruz Yacopini began the event lying second in the Drivers’ Championship behind Al-Attiyah but finished 12th overall in Spain.

Team Audi Sport returned to cross-country rallying action for the first time since the Dakar Rally. The three RS Q E-Tron machines were entered in the T1.U (Ultimate) category and were not classified for the FIA World Cup.

Swedish all-rounder Mattias Ekström beat all the FIA World Cup registered crews on the Prologue stage, where Stéphane Peterhansel was fourth and Carlos Sainz came home in ninth.

The Swede was again the quickest of the three Audi team-mates on the opening selective section on Friday afternoon but both he and Peterhansel suffered technical issues on the first of Saturdays two stages, on a special where Sainz would have been classified in second position behind Al-Attiyah. The four-time Dakar Rally winner went on to finish the event in a time of 6hr 27min 54.9sec that would have put the Spaniard and his co-driver Lucas Cruz third in the rankings with the other cars.

Because of Spanish elections taking place on Sunday (July 23rd), the event was condensed into a two-day format. It was again based out of the town of Teruel in the Aragón region of eastern Spain where fierce summer temperatures, intense heat and hanging dust made the boulder-strewn stages even more challenging.

De Mévius storms to T3 success

Guillaume de Mévius teamed up with Frenchman François Cazalet and stormed to victory in the FIA T3 category for lightweight prototype cross-country machines that attracted 31 starters. The G Rally Team OT3 driver won the Prologue and each of the three stages to win the class by 4min 08.8sec and finish 12th overall.

De Mévius said: “Very happy to win. It was a good weekend for us. It was difficult, very hot and long stages. I am also happy to show that the car can win the race. This is important for us.”

Portugal’s João Dias and Pedro Ré guided their Santag Racing Can-Am Maverick X3 to second and the Portuguese duo of João Monteiro and Nuno Viegas rounded off the podium finishers in their South Racing Can-Am. Portuguese WRC veteran Armindo Araújo and title challenger Fernando Alvarez finished fourth and fifth after Laia Sanz suffered late delays and slipped down to eighth.

Otavio Sousa arrived in Spain with a 13-point cushion over Kuwait’s Meshari Al-Thefiri in the championship standings, but technical issues sidelined the Brazilian at the end of day one. Lithuanian rival Egidijus Valeiša also retired before the final day and young American Mitch Guthrie suffered early delays with his Taurus T3 Max T3M.

The outcome means that Al-Thefiri, who finished sixth in Spain, leapt into title contention at the halfway point of the season. Last year’s championship runner-up Dania Akeel was classified in 12th position.

De Sousa Batista extends series lead with T4 win

Cristiano de Sousa Batista guided his South Racing Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR to a comfortable victory in the FIA T4 category, the Brazilian winning his second Baja in the space of three weeks alongside Portuguese co-driver Fausto Moto to move into an outright lead in the championship.

De Sousa Batista said: “We had some problems with the brakes yesterday and today but we managed to bring the car to the finish and we leave from Spain with a lot of points for the championship. It was a good weekend for us.”

Frenchman Jeremie Warnia (Polaris) was tied with the Brazilian before the Spanish event but suffered technical issues on the first of Saturday’s stages and lost out on a possible second place.

Pau Navarro and Gonçalo Reis guided their FN Speed Team Can-Am to the runner-up spot to stay in title contention and de Sousa Batista’s team-mate Edouard Pons teamed up with Jaume Betriu to round off the podium places. Ricardo Ramilo was paired with Argentina’s Bruno Jacomy on this occasion and collected valuable points for fourth.

The next round of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies takes place in Poland on August 24th-27th

2023 Baja Spain Aragón – final result (top 12):

1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Mathieu Baumel (AND) Toyota GR DKR Hilux                                 6hr 18min 37.2sec

2. Lucas Moraes (BRA)/Kaique Bentivoglio (BRA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive                         6hr 20min 20.4sec

3. Vaidotas Zala (LTU)/Paulo Fiuza (PRT) Mini JCW Rally Plus                                             6hr 28min 28.7sec

4. João Ferreira (PRT)/Filipe Palmeiro (PRT) Mini JCW Rally Plus                                       6hr 29min 45.6sec

5. Tiago Reis (PRT)/Valter Cardoso (PRT) Toyota Hilux                                                        6hr 29min 55.0sec

6. Joan ‘Nani’ Roma (ESP)/Alex Haro (ESP) M-Sport Ford Ranger                                      6hr 30min 34.0sec

7. Krzysztof Holowczyc (POL)/Lukasz Kurzeja (POL) Mini JCW Rally Plus                            6hr 32min 06.1sec

8. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Timo Gottschalk (DEU) Toyota Hilux Overdrive                          6hr 32min 17.0sec

9. Rokas Baciuška (LTU)/Oriol Vidal (ESP) Toyota Hilux Overdrive                                     6hr 34min 31.5sec

10. Francisco Barata Barreto (PRT)/Carlos Silva (PRT) Toyota Hilux Overdrive                  6hr 38min 22.3sec

11. Gareth Woolridge (ZAF)/Boyd Dreyer (ZAF) M-Sport Ford Ranger                               6hr 38min 29.7sec

12. Guillaume de Mévius (BEL)/François Cazalet (FRA) G Rally Team OT3 (T3)                                   6hr 39min 30.9sec

T1+ unless stated


Select other - T1.U class

1. Carlos Sainz (ESP)/Lucas Cruz (ESP) Audi Sport RS Q E-Tron                                            6hr 27min 54.9sec