·         Ford Ranger drivers claim fourth off-road title in space of seven days

·         Pole Lukaszewski wins Polish and Central European titles in Ford Ranger 

PORTALEGRE (PORTUGAL): A fourth successive victory in Portugal’s Baja Portalegre 500 enabled South Racing’s Ricardo Pórem to secure the 2017 Portuguese National Championship of Cross-Country Rallies (CNTT) and the 2017 Cross-Country Rally Iberian Trophy in his Ford Ranger. 

The Portuguese driver and navigator Hugo Magalhães won the all-important third selective section to reach the podium 5min 44sec ahead of Brazilian runner-up and fourth stage winner Guilherme Spinelli. Porém had arrived in Portalegre with a 24-point advantage in his domestic cross-country series and, with none of his closest rivals managing to claim enough points for a top finish, the title was secured with one round to spare. 

To add icing on the cake, he also amassed enough points to confirm victory in the Cross-Country Rallies Iberian Trophy, a championship run in conjunction with both the Spanish and Portuguese national sporting authorities.

The Ford Ranger driver had already claimed victories in Baja Capital Dos Vinhos de Portugal and Baja Idanha-da-Nova, finished runner-up in Baja de Loulé and retired from Baja do Pinhal in the well-supported, six-round Portuguese series. 

Porém said: “It is a great way to finish the season and it’s extra special to win my fourth Baja Portalegre. A big thanks goes out to the team. It was a great year for all of us and we are looking forward to the future.”

To cap a memorable week for South Racing and the Ford Ranger in cross-country rallying, the Polish crew of Marcin Lukaszewski and Magdalena Duhanik-Persson had been tackling several events in Central Europe with an offroadSPORT Ford Ranger run in conjunction with South Racing. They confirmed the Polish Cross-Country Championship (RMPST) and the FIA Central European Zone Cross-Country Championship (FIA-CEZ) last weekend. 

The Portuguese pairing of Alexandre Ré and Pedro Ré held sixth overall at the end of day one in the second South Racing Ford Ranger, but Ré ripped a wheel off the car early in the third stage and retired.

“It has been a great year for the Ford Ranger in various international cross-country events,” said South Racing’s managing director Scott Abraham. “The car has won national and international rallies and four championships. This showed the strength of the Ford Ranger. It was great to give Ford their first international cross-country victory in the T1 category and the overall event.”

The competitive action got underway with a Prologue stage of 3.56km. Rival João Ramos carded the quickest time of 3min 07.15sec, but Porém was handily placed in second, just 2.68 seconds behind his Portuguese rival. Ré completed the Prologue in seventh of the 48 starters in the FIA section.

The first of the selective sections ran for 76.80km and Ramos extended his lead over Porém to 8.68 seconds at the overnight halt with another fastest time. South Racing’s lead driver held second and Ré was sixth. 

The meat of the action took place over two demanding selective sections of 205.50km and 160.11km on Saturday. Porém began the opening stage strongly and held first position at PC1, after 148.66km, with the Portuguese storming into a virtual outright lead after Ramos hit trouble and retired.

Porém lost his front bumper but maintained his lead to complete the stage in 2hrs 47min 58sec and took an outright advantage of 6min 54sec into the last timed section. Ré, however, ripped a wheel off his Ford Ranger and was forced out of the event. 

Because of the presence of dust, the last stage was delayed by 30 minutes for safety reasons. At the first passage control, after 86.48km, Spinelli was running 42 seconds quicker than Porém, but the Portuguese was managing a virtual overall advantage of 6min 12sec to perfection. He held on to claim a fourth successive victory in the final round of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies, despite ceding the final stage win to Spinelli.

31st Baja Portalegre 500 – final positions:

1. Ricardo Porém (PRT)/Hugo Magalhães (PRT) South Racing Ford Ranger            5hrs 35min 29sec               

2. Guilherme Spinelli (BRA)/Youssef Haddad (BRA) Mini All4 Racing                      5hrs 41min 13sec

3. Boris Garafulic (CHL)/Filipe Palmeiro (PRT) Mini All4 Racing                                              5hrs 52min 36sec               

4. Luis Recueneco (ESP)/Manuel Dominguez (ESP) Toyota Hilux                               5hrs 56min 16sec

5. Nuno Matos (PRT)/Pedro Marcio (PRT) Opel Mokka Proto                                    6hrs 00min 21sec

6. Fernando Alvarez (ESP)/Juan Pablo Monasterolo (ARG) Volkswagen Amarok   6hrs 01min 44sec

7. Luis Dias (PRT)/Mario Feio (PRT) Nissan Wd01                                                       6hrs 03min 01sec

8. Lino Carpeta (PRT)/Rui António (PRT) Range Rover Evoque Proto                         6hrs 15min 41sec


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