World Rally-Raid Championship

Eduard Pons, Akira Miura enjoy maiden triumphs at inaugural Baja Greece

3 Mins read
Credit: Toyo Tires

Akira Miura seems to be comfortable in a Toyota Hilux already. Although he entered the Baja Greece with the goal of getting used to his new ride, he ended up winning the premier Ultimate class altogether.

After driving a Toyota Land Cruiser for a decade and winning four Dakar Rallies in the Stock category, Miura joined Overdrive Racing for a two-round FIA World Baja Cup schedule in the Hilux starting at Greece. Overdrive team-mate Yazeed Al-Rajhi was the early favourite as he beat Miura by fourteen seconds in the Prologue, but his brakes failed shortly after starting the first Selective Section; forced to race conservatively, Al-Rajhi ended up being the last finisher in the class. Miura beat Miroslav Zapletal for the Stage #1 win.

Al-Rajhi rebounded to win Stage #2 by seven minutes over Miura, but the previous day’s issue left him nearly an hour behind in the overall.

“I am very happy to have won my first Ultimate class race with the help of the team’s excellent work,” said Miura. His next race in the Hilux will be the Qatar International Baja in early November. “This race is the beginning for me and the OPEN COUNTRY M/T-R, which we developed for this car, and we want to work hard together and improve so that we race even better.”

Miura’s overall time was good for third outright among all FIA entrants, trailing the Challenger caries of Eduard Pons and Lionel Baud. Pons took the overall lead after surviving Stage #1, clearing Miura by fifteen minutes while having a four-minute edge on Baud. To preserve his lead, Pons opted for a safer strategy during the final day to seal the win by thirteen minutes over Baud and seventeen ahead of Miura. Both Challenger drivers enjoyed their best career finishes in a cross-country rally.

João Ferreira, returning to the Challenger category for the first time since the 2023 World Rally-Raid Championship, was just five seconds behind Al-Rajhi in the Prologue but ultimately had a similar race to him. He endured a disastrous Stage #1 that began with his wipers failed shortly after the start, forcing him to stop multiple times to wipe the mud off and even vomit as he was “not feeling really well,” then went off course twenty kilometres before the finish and had to wait for help. Ferreira rebounded to finish second in class in Stage #2 to salvage nineteen points towards the World Baja Cup.

Alexander Toril originally won the SSV class by three and a half minutes until he was disqualified because his Can-Am had an illegal inlet manifold (more bolts installed than allowed) and an aftermarket continuously variable transmission belt. His team explained the manifold was exactly as it appeared when they acquired the car while the belt was purchased from a third party due to a parts shortage at Bombardier Recreational Products, but stressed neither gave them an advantage; a representative from BRP also vouched for them on the latter. Nevertheless, the FIA ruled the burden fell on the team to “ensure that the car was compliant” and upheld the penalty.

Another SSV driver Ibrahim Almuhna was not allowed to start the race after the FIA found the crossbar between the tubes along the co-driver’s side of the roll cage was bent into an ovoid shape. Roll cage damage also knocked out Amerigo Ventura, whose frame was deformed in a Stage #1 crash. Luis Henderson retired after the brake master cylinder broke in the first stage, then a “misunderstanding between the race officials and the crew” resulted in him arriving thirty minutes late and being barred from running the next leg.

The Baja Greece is a new event for 2024, independent of the Rally Greece Off-Road that was on the 2023 World and European Baja Cups.

Overall results

FIA

Ultimate

FinishNumberDriverCo-DriverTeamVehicleClassTimeMargin
1203Akira MiuraJean-Michel PolatoOverdrive RacingToyota Hilux OverdriveT1+8:07:53.8Leader
2201Miroslav ZapletalMarek SýkoraOffroadsportFord F-150T1+8:08:32.9+ 39.1
3200Yazeed Al-RajhiTimo GottschalkOverdrive RacingToyota Hilux OverdriveT1+8:43:50.2+ 35:56.4
DNF202Magdalena ZajacMarcin PasekProxcars TME Rally TeamToyota HiluxT1.1DNFN/A

Challenger

FinishNumberDriverCo-DriverTeamVehicleTimeMargin
1304Eduard PonsJaume BetriuPons RallysportTaurus T3 Max7:50:46.4Leader
2303Lionel BaudLucie BaudGRallyTeamGRallyTeam OT38:03:51.6+ 13:05.2
3305Csaba MiklósAlbert HornCsaba MiklósTaurus T3 Max8:27:33.6+ 36:47.2
4307Diego MartinezSergio LafuenteSouth Racing Can-AmCan-Am Maverick8:50:59.7+ 1:00:13.3
5302Khalid AljaflaAndrei RudnitskiKhalid AljaflaCan-Am Maverick9:9:13:22.9+ 1:22:36.5
6301Ghislain de MéviusJohan JaletGRallyTeamGRallyTeam OT310:25:09.0+ 2:34:22.6
7300João FerreiraFilipe PalmeiroCan-Am Factory TeamCan-Am Maverick11:22:55.1+ 3:32:08.7
DNF308Konstantin CholakovIvaylo ZhekovSC-Networx RacingCan-Am MaverickDNFN/A

SSV

FinishNumberDriverCo-DriverTeamVehicleTimeMargin
1400Fernando ÁlvarezXavier PanseriSouth Racing Can-AmCan-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR88:29:13.9Leader
2405Miguel TorilNasser Al-KuwariEscudería JMP RacingCan-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR8:44:38.8+ 15:24.9
3404Claude FournierSerge GounonClaude FournierCan-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR9:22:38.6+ 53:24.7
DNF401Luis HendersonDaniel SpositoXtremeplusPolaris RZR Pro RDNFN/A
DNF402Amerigo VenturaErika MingozziQuaddy RacingCan-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RRDNFN/A
DSQ403Alexander TorilPedro LopezEscudería JMP RacingCan-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RRDSQN/A
DSQ406Ibrahim AlmuhnaFaisal AlsuwayhAlmuhna RacersCan-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RRDSQN/A

Points earned

National

TZ1

FinishNumberDriverCo-DriverTeamVehicleClassTimeMargin
1703Hector KimonidesSimos ZervasHector KimonidesSuzuki JimnyTH.110:06:32.6Leader
2701Spyridon DourakosSpyridon PountosSpyridon DourakosRally Raid UK Desert WarriorTH.110:36:15.4+ 29:42.8
3705Ioannis VorriasAthanasios BajasIoannis VorriasMitsubishi PajeroTH.217:43:28.6+ 7:36:56.0
4704Georgios KoutsoumbosDmitra DrakouGeorgios KoutsoumbosSuzuki VitaraTH.118:14:45.5+ 8:08:12.9
5702Andreas TziallasNikos MakariosAndreas TziallasJeep Grand CherokeeTH.418:33:50.4+ 8:27:17.8
6700Evangelos BersisKonstantinos ExarchosEvangelos BersisToyota HiluxTH.119:27:30.0+ 9:20:57.4

SSV

FinishNumberDriverCo-DriverTeamVehicleTimeMargin
1803Israfil AkyuzMert TepeIsrafil AkyuzCan-Am Maverick8:59:49.8Leader
2805Taxiarchis AdamopoulosTheodoros ArgyropoulosTaxiarchis AdamopoulosCan-Am Maverick9:01:19.4+ 1:29.6
3806Mohammadzadeh GhasemMahmoodreza EbadianMohammadzadeh GhasemCan-Am Maverick9:44:10.2+ 44:20.4
4800Vladislav VelkovNikolay NikolaevVabonti TeamCan-Am Maverick10:30:19.4+ 1:30:29.6
5801Derin DoganerAli DoganerDerin DoganerCan-Am Maverick16:19:06.7+ 7:19:16.9
6802Yagiz BirinciUgur TepeYagiz BirinciCan-Am Maverick20:27:30.0+ 11:27:40.2
DNS804Ali CetinSabahattin DemirAli CetinCan-Am MaverickDNSN/A
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Justin is not an off-road racer, but he writes about it for The Checkered Flag.
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