South Racing will run three DMAS South Racing Ford Rangers for the former WRC star Xavier Pons, Alexandre Ré and Czech driver Petr Hozak, while South Racing has entered a quartet of Toyota Hiluxes for Spaniard Fernando Alvarez, Brazil’s Marcos Moraes and Sylvio Barros and Bolivia’s Rodrigo Gutierrez.
Pons is using the Portuguese finale to the FIA World Cup to make his final preparations for the Dakar Rally. With support from Esponsorama, the Spaniard teams up with new navigator Ruben Garcia at the three-day Baja Portalegre, which has again received an oversubscribed entry of cars, quads and bikes.
Alexandre and Pedro Re have backing from Primus Victoria for the second of the Ford Rangers and Hozák teams up with Slovakian Marek Sykora with support from the Giraffe Facility for the third Ford. The Czech is driving the Ranger for the first time, but has considerable experience in more conventional European special stage rallies.
Alvarez teams up with Argentinean Luciano Genonni to drive the Conarpesa-backed Toyota, Moraes is partnered by Brazil’s Fabio Pedroso in the Dunas Sertões-backed car and fellow Brazilian Rafael Capoani sits alongside Barros in an iCarros Toyota run by South Racing.
Gutierrez and fellow Bolivian navigator Juan Pablo Vargas round off the line-up in the Toyosa/La Belgica car. The Bolivian has tackled the Portuguese event on one occasion in the past and finished the Dakar in 44th position last year before switching to a South Racing car for the 2017 event.
The bulk of the competitive action takes place on Friday and Saturday (October 28-29) through remote rural terrain in eastern Portugal. Action gets underway with a timed super special stage of 5.62km at Coutades and then a longer and more demanding Ponte de Sor stage of 83.15km.
Two further selective sections of 220.52km and 198.11km take place on Saturday from 07.10hrs and 13.30hrs before the ceremonial finish at NERPOR from 17.30hrs. In a total route of 642.46km, race officials have planned 507.40km against the clock.
The event ran for the first time under the name of Rali Maratona de Portalegre Finicisa in 1987 and was the brainchild of ex-Dakar driver José Megre. Former winners in the car category include Carlos Sousa, the late Colin McRae, Dakar legend Stéphane Peterhansel, Poland’s Krzysztof Holowczyc and the 2014 and 2015 winner Ricardo Porém.