LOULÉ (PORTUGAL): South Racing narrowly missed out on a second international victory in the space of seven days, when a flat tyre deprived Portuguese driver Ricardo Porém a potential victory in the Baja de Loulé, the opening rally of the six-round Portuguese National Championship of Cross-Country Rallies (CNTT), on Saturday.

Porém and his experienced navigator Hugo Magalhães set two fastest stage times over the course of the two days in their Ford Ranger, but the flat tyre on Saturday morning cost them their overnight lead. Even though they finished well clear of third-placed Pedro Fereira, the time loss meant that they completed the event behind João Ramos and his co-driver Vitor Jesus.

“It was a strong start to the new Portuguese Championship season with second place after Ricardo lost time with a puncture this morning on the first stage,” said South Racing’s managing director Scott Abraham. “We won two of the three stages, so it was a strong way to start the championship. We have a little bit of work to do before the next race at the end of May, but it was a good race for Ricardo and Hugo and it looks positive for the future.”

Porém started strongly and carded the second quickest time behind Ramos on the first of two runs through the 5.2km Prologue stage in the Canil area, near Loulé. The three-time winner of the Baja Portalegre was three seconds slower on his second run and slipped to third in the stage behind Ramos and Alejandro Martins, but it meant that the Ford Ranger driver was second overall after the two Prologue stages were added together.

The first selective of 82.04km on Friday ran through remote countryside from Aldeia de Ameixial and finished at Barranco do Velho. The South Racing team snatched the outright lead with the fastest time of 1hr 09min 47sec to put the crew 34.13 seconds in front of Ramos at the night halt.

Two further selective sections wrapped up proceedings on Saturday. The sections of 80.75km and 123.70km were held in the Cortelha-Ameixial-Martin Longo triangle. Porém sustained a flat tyre in the first special and dropped exactly four minutes to his rival and slipped to second overall, 3min 2.87sec behind Ramos with the longest stage of the event still to run.

The Ford Ranger crew managed to set the quickest time on this one by a margin of 1min 06sec, but the damage had been done with the flat tyre and Porém reached the finish in second position, 2min 19.87sec behind Ramos and well clear of third-placed Pedro Fereira.

2017 Baja de Loulé – final positions
1. João Ramos (PRT)/Vitor Jesus (PRT) Toyota Hilux 4hr 20min 55.28sec
2. Ricardo Porém (PRT)/Hugo Magalhães (PRT) Ford Ranger 4hr 23min 15.15sec
3. Pedro Fereira (PRT)/Valter Cardosa (PRT) VW Amarok 4hr 36min 37.98sec
4. Alejandro Martins (PRT)/José Marques (PRT) Toyota Hilux 4hr 39min 13.52sec
5. João Rato (PRT)/Vitor Hugo (PRT) Vangest JH 12 4hr 42min 41.60sec
6. Rui Sousa (PRT)/Carlos Silva (PRT) Isuzu D-Max 5hr 09min 44.34sec


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