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Off-roaders are kicking up mud at the wet and wild BP Ultimate Rally Raid Portugal

The BP Ultimate Rally Raid Portugal is making a splash during its debut edition. After two stages on the Iberian Peninsula we’ve seen heavyweight World Rally-Raid Championship (W2RC) contenders stuck in the mud while fleet-footed rivals have blasted through all obstacles. With three stages still to race before the chequered flag flies on Sunday, April 7 let’s check in on the W2RC convoy…
Pushing his way to the top of the Ultimate class leaderboard at Round 3 of the W2RC is five-time Dakar Rally winner Nasser Al-Attiyah. The BP Ultimate Rally Raid Portugal got off to the best possible start for the Qatari when he won Wednesday’s Prologue Stage. Another win came on Stage 2 to put Al-Attiyah, co-driver Edouard Boulanger and their Prodrive Hunter in first place with three stages left to race.
“There was a lot of standing water out there. We didn’t want to take any big risks so we didn’t push like crazy. This is a new rally for all of us so we’re all still trying to work things out.” – Nasser Al-Attiyah
Still within touching distance of Al-Attiyah are Yazeed Al Rajhi in second overall and Carlos Sainz in third. Sainz has wasted no time getting to grips with his MINI (no surprise given its similarity to the car he drove to victory at the Dakar in 2020). Sainz currently leads the W2RC Ultimate rankings and is set to add more points to his total in Portugal alongside co-driver Alex Haro.
“We’re trying our best, but so far we’ve not been able to match the fastest speed. We’ll keep going and see what we can do. We’ll change some things and see if we can find the speed that we’re missing.” – Carlos Sainz
Also in the mix for victory after two stages is Lucas Moraes of Toyota Gazoo Racing. The Brazilian and his co-driver Armand Monleon are currently fifth in Ultimate class, just 3m10s behind race leader Al-Attiyah.
“It was a tricky day for us. We had some issues with the power shifting so when we were changing gears we were losing some power. Besides that it was all good and we have a good position on the road for tomorrow.” – Lucas Moraes
It’s been a tougher ride at Round 3 of the W2RC so far for Moraes’s team-mate Seth Quintero. A long stoppage on Stage 1 took Quintero and co-driver Dennis Zenz out of contention for the overall podium in Portugal. Similar misfortune struck Dakar runner-up Guillaume de Mevius and co-driver Xavier Panseri on Stage 2 as they also suffered engine belt issues due to watersplashing. Individual stage results are now the focus for Quintero and De Mevius as they aim to collect W2RC points in Portugal.
The most remarkable performance during the opening days of the rally in Portugal has come from Sébastien Loeb. The Frenchman has dropped down to the Challenger class for Round 3 of the championship, but his results are still a match for the fastest in the Ultimate division. On Stage 2 Loeb and co-driver Fabian Lurquin brought home their Taurus T3 Max just 35 seconds behind Al-Attiyah’s Prodrive Hunter! The result puts Loeb top of the Challenger class and fifth in the overall rankings at the BP Ultimate Rally Raid Portugal, in front of cars that have won the Ultimate class of the Dakar Rally!
“It was a good stage for us today. I was able to take a good rhythm from the start and we caught a lot of cars. We were a bit stuck in the dust in a few places, but finally we made it through.” – Sébastien Loeb
Loeb leads W2RC Challenger contenders Rokas Baciuška and Austin ‘AJ’ Jones. The pair of Can-Am drivers, plus respective co-drivers Oriol Vidal and Oriol Mena, are both placed inside the Top 10 and still aiming for a final podium result.
Loeb’s fellow Taurus T3 Max drivers Cristina Gutiérrez and Dania Akeel have a tougher job on their hands reaching the podium. Dakar winner Gutiérrez and co-driver Pablo Moreno lost time on Stage 1 while Akeel and co-driver Stephane Duple are over 20 minutes back from Loeb after two stages.
“I slowed down in the parts that were full of mud and water so I could pick my line before going through. I think that was a good decision because we didn’t get stuck anywhere. There were also some nice rally-style fast tracks so overall it was a good stage.” – Dania Akeel
Still to come at the BP Ultimate Rally Raid Portugal are three tough timed special stages. Expect more tight and twisty tracks as the rally crosses the border into Spain for the penultimate stage. Then on Sunday, April 7 the convoy returns to Portugal for the final stage before the winners are crowned at the podium ceremony in the Portuguese town of Grândola.