The exceptionally challenging 184.3 kilometers of Selective Sector 3 propelled João Ferreira and Filipe Palmeiro to the forefront of the Baja Portalegre 500 among the car competitors. Adverse weather conditions left the surfaces waterlogged and muddy, creating a terrain where the Mini JCW Plus T1+ duo excelled. They now hold a commanding lead overall, boasting a 1 minute and 4.7-second advantage over Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel in the Prodrive Hunter T1+. The outcome of this afternoon's Selective Sector will determine the winners of the 37th edition of the Automóvel Clube de Portugal event.
Last year's Baja Portalegre 500 champion, João Ferreira, has positioned himself well for another shot at victory this year, claiming the fastest time in the challenging SS3 this morning. "We encountered some difficulties with the mud, and we were trailing Nasser, who was experiencing issues. We lost a significant amount of time there. But this is Portalegre, and there are still many kilometers to cover." The heavy rains in recent weeks have rendered the terrain of Alto Alentejo exceptionally muddy, with streams adding an extra layer of challenge for both machines and drivers. In these demanding conditions, João Ferreira and navigator Filipe Palmeiro emerged as the most adept.
Nasser Al-Attiyah, who has already secured his FIA Bajas World Cup title in Portugal, had a setback in his Prodrive Hunter T1+ when his windscreen wipers malfunctioned, with Mathieu Baumel as his navigator. "It was a challenging start as the windscreen wipers stopped working. We had to stop and lost a substantial amount of time as a result. We'll see how things go in the afternoon." Nevertheless, Al-Attiyah managed to outpace Saudi Yazeed Al-Rajhi, with Timo Gottschalk as his navigator, who now occupies third place overall, trailing João Ferreira by 2 minutes and 43.4 seconds. Al-Rajhi also encountered difficulties with his Toyota Hilux T1+ as the windscreen fogged up.
In the T3 category, SSVs, which came within 21 seconds of an overall win in the 2022 edition through João Dias and João Miranda, are currently represented by the Can-Am duo, holding fourth place, 3 minutes and 32.6 seconds behind João Ferreira. Luís Portela de Morais held second place overall at kilometer 119 but experienced a setback. Miguel Barbosa and Paulo Fiúza (Toyota Hilux T1+) presently secure the fifth position, just ahead of Armindo Araújo and Luís Ramalho (Can-Am Maverick X3), who are contending for the national title in the T3 category. In the T1 category, Alexandre Franco and Rui Franco lead the standings, despite encountering issues with the turbo of their Mercedes 350D.
Competitors will now confront the decisive Selective Sector 4 in the afternoon to determine the victors of the 37th Baja Portalegre 500.