by Rita Kónya
Beside the World Cup, Italian Baja also counts for another prestigious international series, Central European Zone Championship. Two of the reigning CEZ champions will be racing in Italy, both coming from Poland: Tomasz Piec in T2 and Mariusz Wiatr in TH.
Central European Zone Championship is a series for crews from Central European countries (Italy, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary among others) in categories T1, T2, T3, and TH. In category T1, the biggest name in the CEZ classification is definitely former champion Czech Miroslav Zapletal, who scored an overall podium finish last year in Italian Baja and uses this season to tough test his new Ford F-150, and his compatriot Zdenek Porizek, also with a F-150 built in Zapletal’s workshop.
In T2, reigning champion of the category Tomasz Piec has started his second season with his Toyota returns to the Italian tracks with big goals after being 2nd last year. His compatriot, Tomasz Baranowski is to start with a brand new car this year, a Toyota built in the workshop of Krzysztof Holowczyc. The Poles can expect strong competition from the Italian T2 drivers in CEZ, but also from Ahmed Al-Shegawi (Saudi Arabia, Toyota), current leader of the World Cup in the category and last year’s champion Adel Abdula (Qatar, Toyota) in the World Cup classification.
In TH, the reigning champion (and also leader of the category after the first four rounds) also arrives to Pordenone from Poland: Mariusz Wiatr opted for a new car this year, one with a fantastic history. His Mitsubishi L200 Strakar has a number of great results with its former owners, including a 7th place in the overall classification of Dakar Rally in 2009 – and its still capable of a good pace, just like its driver. Also competing in category TH, it will be worth watching the three spectacular Dacia Dusters, two of them driven by lady drivers, Magdalena Zajac and Patrycja Brochocka, and the third having the 2017 champion of the Duster Cup inside the Polish National Cup, Krzysztof Wicentowicz at the helm.