Pride and prejudice, an extraordinary pink race. The Italian Baja 2022, with 8 women at the wheel and 14 female navigators out of 72 registered crews, amazed the off-road world and beyond. And maybe in 2023, at the 30th anniversary edition, there will be even more.
But no revolution in front of everyone, with Yazeed Al Rajhi winner like last year, third seal on Toyota Hilux Overdriver after the first obtained in 2014.
Operating base at the Interporto di Pordenone, from Thursday 7 to Sunday 10 July, there were four glamorous days opening with the press conference of the Shero Saudi Womens Rally Team.
Friday the eve of the race in Sedegliano, left bank of the Tagliamento river for the shakedown.
Then another press conference at the Pordenone Interport with the big names in the Fia World Cup and European Cup, the Italian Baja and SSV Championship, authorities and sponsors.
In the afternoon the official start and the prologue of Valvasone, the first selective sector of 14 kilometers and 300 meters with the first timed verdict.
As expected, the Saudi Al Rajhi immediately put his opponents in line, with a trio of Toyota Hilux in front of everyone. Excellent according to the Lithuanian Benediktas Vanagas, now a regular at the Italian Baja. Argentine Juan Cruz Yacopini, first time in Pordenone, took no risks by finishing third in the short stage.
The fastest of the Mini John Cooper Works Rally was that of the Portuguese Joao Ferreira with the fourth fastest time.
Promising start for Andrea Alfano on Nissan Pathfinder, tenth in the world ranking, first in the Italian Baja Championship.
Amerigo Ventura is in great shape with the Quaddy Yamaha, best time in Group T4 for the European Cup and the Italian flag reserved for side by side.
Friendly atmosphere in the evening, when the top ten of the prologue rankings chose the starting positions for the first stage.
On Saturday 9 July, the 2 steps planned on the selective sector "Zoppola" of 112.48 km were completed.
In the first assault, Alrajhi was clearly the fastest, marking an already substantial gap over Ferreira, while Vanagas was very late due to an accident with no physical consequences for the crew.
In evidence the Polish Michal Maluszynski, leader of the European Cup with the Mini X-Raid, author of the third fastest time in the sector.
On the shields also the Brazilian Cristiano Batista De Sousa, fourth in the time trial, passed to the command of T4 with Ventura behind him, not far away.
Engine problems for Alfano, the Lombard was forced to slow down dramatically, giving the provisional command of the Baja flag to Pordenone driver Andrea Tomasini on Isuzu D-Max.
Second position for Andrea Bordonaro from Catania, for the first time at the wheel of a T1 vehicle, the Suzuki Grand Vitara who won many championships with Lorenzo Codecà at the wheel.
Ventura first with a wide margin among the national SSVs, but Alessandro Bonetto's performance with another Quaddy Yamaha was very good.
Shero Team captain Iole De Simone amassed a clear advantage over her teammates on their first international outing.
Then in the repetition of the “Zoppola” sector everyone went faster, but the situation at the top did not change. Al Rajhi first, Ferreira second and Maluszynski third.
All Can-Am Maverick in T3 with South Racing vehicle domination. In the lead the Dutch Erik Van Loon, followed by the Spaniard Santi Navarro.
Third place for Dania Akeel, the Saudi driver shows confidence with the bumpy background already experienced in the 2021 edition.
The third selective sector concluded the race valid for the Italian championships on Saturday.
Best time of Alessandro Trivini Bellini on Mitsubishi Pajero, who thus conquered the place of honor, but Bordonaro triumphed among the Baja vehicles with only 37 "over the youngest rival.
Alfano, gritting his teeth, managed to keep third place on the podium. Too bad for Tomasini, the victory of the local driver vanished in the excited final due to a sudden failure of the engine of his Isuzu D-Max.
Final surprise also in the SSV tricolor: victory without problems for Ventura, but overtaking by Valentino Rocco on Bonetto, with three Quaddy Yamaha Racing on the specialty podium.
On Sunday 10 July, the last timed stage for the World Cup and European Cup was staged. The selective sector "Dignano" of 115 km characterized by confirmations and surprises.
Yazeed Alrajhi without forcing was however the fastest closing with a total of 4 hours and 23 minutes. For the Toyota Overdrive team bishop, victory and important points to relaunch the world championship.
Satisfaction for Joao Ferreira, still second in the sector and second overall at the finish line on the Mini John Cooper Works Rally, 5 minutes and 6 seconds behind, an excellent result in view of the FIA European Cup.
"Dignano" instead reserved a big disappointment for Maluszynski with the Mini of the X-Raid team in need of breakdown, forced to retire.
Vanagas managed to get the third fastest time in the sector, but remained out of the top twenty at the finish line, paying for the long delay accumulated in the first stage.
To celebrate third overall on the podium of the Interporto di Pordenone was therefore De Sousa, with a total gap of over 22 minutes, first in Group T4. The Brazilian kept behind the Czech Miroslav Zapletal on the Hummer H3 Evo, always the protagonist on the shores of Friuli.
Fifth place overall, a result to be framed, for Amerigo Ventura on Quaddy Yamaha Racing, first of the Italians in the race. Alongside him as a navigator Mirko Brun, who grew up in the ranks of the 4x4 Club 4x4 Pordenone.
Final apotheosis at the Interport with an award ceremony in grand style for a competition that is always spectacular, fun and selective.
In 2023 the commitment to do everything even better to worthily celebrate thirty years of Italian Baja. And Mauro Tavella is already preparing a special surprise for all the protagonists of his magnificent adventure.
Carlo Ragogna Press Office Italian Baja