W2RC - Sainz teams up with Haro & returns to defend his lead with X-Raid at BP Ultimate Rally-Raid in Portugal


After missing the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, four-time Dakar Rally winner Carlos Sainz has teamed up with Alex Haro in an X-Raid Mini JCW Rally Plus and tops the entry for the BP Ultimate Rally-Raid Portugal, round three of the 2024 FIA World Rally-Raid Championship (W2RC).

The Spaniard won the Dakar in January and he rejoins X-Raid Team to continue his challenge for a first W2RC Drivers’ Championship. With rival Nasser Al-Attiyah failing to finish the Dakar and both Guerlain Chicherit and Guillaume De Mévius retiring in Abu Dhabi, Sainz still leads the series by nine points.

Al-Attiyah won the last round in Abu Dhabi on his first event with Edouard Boulanger and heads a team of three Prodrive Hunters representing Nasser Racing by Prodrive in the W2RC Manufacturers’ Championship. The X-Rally Team’s Brazilian duo of Cristian and Marcos Baumgart will drive the other two Hunters.

With Alex Winocq still recuperating from the back injury he sustained in Abu Dhabi, Chicherit teams up with his former co-driver Mathieu Baumel in the first of an armada of Toyota Hiluxes run by both Overdrive Racing and Toyota Gazoo Racing.

Chicherit said: “Fifteen years after our last competitive partnership, we’ll be sharing the same car in Portugal. Together, we started the discipline in 2005 and experienced extraordinary adventures, sometimes even sleeping alone in our small tent in the African desert. We are thrilled to re-unite for this one shot!”

With Chicherit sidelined in Abu Dhabi and Overdrive Racing team-mate de Mévius having retired following an injury, that allowed Al-Attiyah to move ahead of his rivals in the W2RC Drivers’ Championship. The Qatari arrives in Grândola in second place behind Sainz - three points ahead of Chicherit and five in front of de Mévius.

The Ultimate category has attracted 35 entries with 16 pilots registered for the W2RC Drivers’ Championship and eight cars registered for the W2RC Manufacturers’ Championship.

Al-Attiyah’s victory at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge has revitalised the Manufacturers’ series. Toyota Gazoo Racing now leads the series by 31 points from Nasser Racing by Prodrive. The absent Team Audi Sport is a further point behind and the X-Raid Mini JCW Team is fourth on 35 points.

Toyotas dominate the upper reaches of the entry list: Overdrive Racing will run additional Hiluxes for Yazeed Al-Rajhi, Denis Krotov, Juan Cruz Yacopini, Eugenio Amos and Lionel Baud and their respective co-drivers, Timo Gottschalk, Konstantin Zhiltsov, Daniel Oliveras, Paulo Ceci and Lucie Baud. Al-Rajhi and the Toyota Gazoo Racing duo of Seth Quintero and Lucas Moraes will represent Toyota Gazoo Racing in the W2RC Manufacturers’ Championship. They currently hold fifth, eighth and sixth in the Drivers’ rankings.

The Portuguese duo of Joāo Ferreira and Filipe Palmeiro have switched from the SSV category to drive a second X-Raid JCW Rally Plus and will represent Quandt’s team for Manufacturers’ points alongside Sainz and Haro.

South Africa’s Saood Variawa (Toyota) and Buggyra ZM Racing’s Aliyyah Koloc are also registered for W2RC Drivers’ Championship points.

Can-Am Factory Team’s Baciuška and Jones head Challenger battle

Seven of an impressive 32 entrants in the Challenger category are registered for the FIA W2RC Championship.

The Can-Am Factory Team’s Rokas Baciuška and Austin Jones hold first and second in the section in their Maverick X3s and will go head-to-head on the Iberian Peninsula with their respective Spanish co-drivers Oriol Vidal and Oriol Mena.

They are currently separated by 14 points following the Lithuanian’s pair of second places and Jones picking up points for third on the Dakar and first in the UAE. With Mena replacing Gustavo Gugelmin at the last round, Vidal leads the Co-drivers’ Championship by 29 points from Mitch Guthrie’s navigator Kellon Walch.

Guthrie is absent from Portugal, while the Argentine pairing of Nicolas Cavigliasso and Valentina Pertegarini are a distant fourth in the standings with the Brazilian duo of Marcelo Tiglia Castaldi and Carlos Sachs in fifth in a Taurus T3Max. Saudi Arabia’s Dania Akeel holds sixth and will be co-driven by Frenchman Stéphane Duplé. Portuguese drivers Ricardo Porém (MMP Can-Am) and Mário Franco (Yamaha) have also registered for points.

The list of non-registered drivers features some star names: nine-time WRC champion Sébastien Loeb joins the Dakar’s Challenger category winner Cristina Gutiérrez in a pair of Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA Presented by BFG-entered Taurus T3Ms.

Chilean driver Hernan Garces drives a South Racing Can-Am and there are four G Rally Team OT3s for Ghislain de Mévius, Luis Portela, Rui Carneiro and Adroaldo Weisheimer. Santag Racing also features strongly with Can-Ams for João Dias, Armindo Araújo, Luis Cidade and Marco Pereira.   

Runaway leader Yasir Seaidan heads SSVs

Saudi Arabia’s Yasir Seaidan heads into the week’s action with a 59-point advantage over the FN Speed Team’s Sebastian Guayasamin in the SSV standings. The Saudi claimed victory at the Dakar and was the top W2RC-registered finisher in Abu Dhabi with co-driver Michael Metge.

Guayasamin’s co-driver Fernando Acosta holds second in the Co-drivers’ standings, although the Argentine is only four points behind Adrien Metge because Seaidan has utilised both of the Metge brothers so far this season. 

The South Racing Can-Am Team’s Sara Price and Jeremy Gray were not in Abu Dhabi and are not on the entry list in Portugal either but continue to hold third in the rankings.

Five of the 19 vehicles entered in the SSV category are registered for the W2RC. Only Fans Racing’s Rebecca Busi teams up with Uruguay’s Sergio Lafuente, Spain’s Ricardo Ramilo is joined by Portuguese co-driver Fausto Mota and French veteran Claude Fournier teams up with Serge Gounon. Busi, Ramilo and Fournier currently hold sixth, eighth and 10th in the W2RC’s SSV standings.

Non W2RC-registered SSV drivers include South Racing’s João Monteiro and a host of privateers from Portugal, Spain and France, in addition to Brazilian driver Reinaldo Varela.

Both FIA CEO Natalie Robyn and FIA Road Sport Director Andrew Wheatley will attend the start of the event in Grândola.

Organised by the Automóvel Club de Portugal, the event is a new addition to the W2RC calendar, although Portugal and Spain did host Rally Transibérico back in May 2006 over similar terrain as a counting round of the FIA Cross-Country Rally World Cup. South African Giniel de Villiers and his German co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz won in a Volkswagen Race Touareg 2.

The bivouac for BP Ultimate Rally-Raid Portugal will be based in the city of Grânola in the Setúbal province, situated around 100km south of Lisbon. Competitive action will be fought out over five selective sections and 1,008.87 competitive kilometres in a route of 1,758.41km through Alentejo and Ribatejo in Portugal and the Spanish Estremadura region.

A five-kilometre Prologue will determine the starting order on Wednesday, April 3rd and this precedes five timed stages, with the third finishing across the border in the town of Badajoz in Spain and the fourth starting out of Badajoz and returning to Portugal. The event finishes in Grândola on Sunday, April 7th.

2024 BP Ultimate Rally-Raid Portugal  – W2RC entries:

200. Carlos Sainz (ESP)/Alex Haro (ESP) Mini John Cooper Works Rally Plus
201. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Edouard Boulanger (FRA) Prodrive Hunter
202. Guerlain Chicherit (FRA)/Mathieu Baumel (FRA)Toyota Hilux Overdrive
203. Guillaume de Mevius (BEL)/Xavier Panseri (FRA)Toyota Hilux Overdrive
204. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Timo Gottschalk (DEU)Toyota Hilux Overdrive 
205. Lucas Moraes (BRA)/Armand Monleón (ESP)Toyota GR DKR Hilux
206. Seth Quintero (USA)/Dennis Zenz (DEU)Toyota GR DKR Hilux
207. Denis Krotov (RUS)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS)Toyota Hilux Overdrive
208. Saood Variawa (ZAF)/François Cazalet (FRA)Toyota GR DKR Hilux
209. Cristian Baumgart (BRA)/Gustavo Gugelmin (BRA)Prodrive Hunter
210. Marcos Baumgart (BRA)/Kleber Cincea (BRA)Prodrive Hunter
211. Juan Cruz Yacopini (ARG)/Daniel Oliveras (ESP)Toyota Hilux Overdrive
212. Aliyyah Koloc (SYC)/Sébastien Delaunay (FRA)Red-Lined Revo+
213. Eugenio Amos (ITA)/Paulo Ceci (ITA)Toyota Hilux Overdrive
214. Joāo Ferreira (PRT)/Filipe Palmeiro (PRT)Mini John Cooper Works Rally Plus
215. Lionel Baud (FRA)/Lucie Baud (FRA)Toyota Hilux Overdrive
300. Rokas Baciuška (LTU)/Oriol Vidal (ESP)Can-Am Maverick X3
301. Austin Jones (USA)/Oriol Mena (ESP)Can-Am Maverick X3
302. Nicolas Cavigliasso (ARG)/Valentia Pertegarini (ARG)Taurus T3Max
303. Marcelo Tiglia Gastaldi (BRA)/Carlos Sachs (BRA)Taurus T3Max
304. Dania Akeel (SAU)/Stéphane Duplé (FRA)Taurus T3Max
305. Ricardo Porém (PRT)/Luis Marques (PRT)Can-Am MMP Rally-Raid 
306. Mário Franco (PRT)/João Serôdio (PRT)Yamaha YXZ 1000R Turbo
400. Yasir Seaidan (SAU)/Michael Metge (FRA)Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR
401. Sebastian Guayasamin (ARG/Fernando Acosta (ARG)Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR
402. Rebecca Busi (ITA)/Sergio Lafuente (URY)Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR
403. Ricardo Ramilo (ESP)/Fausto Mota (PRT)Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR
404. Claude Fournier (FRA)/Serge Gounon (FRA)Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR

Timetable of events

Monday, April 1 
Administration checks10.00-23.00hrs – PFE Grândola
Tuesday, April 2 
Administration checks07.30-20.00hrs – PFE Grândola
Scrutineering08.00-18.00hrs – PFE Grândola
Pre-event press conference19.00hrs – PFE Grândola
Wednesday, April 3 
Prologue – 5km 09.30hrs – Grândola
Stage 1 – 103km15.00hrs – Santiago do Cacém 
Thursday, April 4 
Stage 2 – 220km10.30hrs – PFE Grândola
Friday, April 5 
Stage 3 (finish in Spain) – 282.87km  09.30hrs – PFE Grândola
Saturday, April 6 
Stage 4 (start in Spain) – 270km10.30hrs - Badajoz
Sunday, April 7 
Stage 5 – 133km10.30hrs – PFE Grândola
Press conference17.00hrs – PFE Grnâdola
Prizegiving ceremony19.00hrs – PFE Grândola