The history of the Baja Portalegre 500

The Baja of Portalegre was the first cross country event held in Portugal, in June 1987, based in Portalegre city.

In fact, Clube Aventura, headed by José Megre, an ex-Dakar Rally driver, had this event in mind since 1983, but it took him almost four years to materialize the idea, since he had to get the help and authorization from the local authorities. 

As the non competitive cross country events had started in 1982, also organised by Megre and some friends under the banner of Clube Todo-o-Terreno, and as some Portuguese drivers were competing in the Dakar Rally since 1982, (himself one of the works drivers of UMM), Megre had a tremendous success when he launched the first Baja of Portalegre, which was the starting the Cross Country discipline in Portugal.

100 cars and more than 100 bikes entered the first Baja Portalegre, which was run under the name Rali Maratona de Portalegre – sponsored by Finicisa.

The event was run on a circuit of 350 km to be done twice with no stops. Heavy rains and mud made the event a tremendous challenge for drivers, cars and bikes.

The second and third time editions, held the two following years, had the entries doubled and the same mud conditions. On the 4th edition, 250 cars and 450 bikes entered, after a memorable 1989 edition where only 10% of the starters finished!!

Since the first year, the bike race was international and the best riders came to Portalegre. From Serge Bacou, Thierry Charbonnier, Gilles Lalay, Stephane Peterhansel, David Castera, Cyril Esquirol, Richard Sainct, Alain Perez, Thierry Magnaldi, etc.. all have participated in the event.

But only in 1995 and 1996, a foreigner rider won (Richard Sainct and Alain Perez).

The event’s evolution

2017 – Another event with several record braking performances. Ricardo Porém beat his own record by winning his fourth back to back Baja Portalegre 500. Adding to that, he also secured the National Championship title. On Bikes, António Maio entred the “Culb of the Six” by winning the Automóvel Club de Portugal’s event for the sixth time, just like Mário Patrão and Roberto Borrego, which also achieved his sixth Quad win in 2017, his second hat-trick at the Baja. Ruben Faria, participating for the first time on the SSV, won the even.

2016 – An historical year for the Baja Portalegre 500 with the celebration of the 30th edition. A year in which Ricardo Porém managed his third consecutive win, a first on the Baja’s history, while Nuno Matos secured the National Championship title. Luís Oliveira was the winner amongst Bikes, while António Maio secured the National Championship title despite a broken collarbone 10 km after the start. Roberto Borrego was the fastest Quad rider, while João Silva and Marco Silva won the UTV/Buggy.

2015 – Ricardo Porém got his second win at the Baja Portalegre 500, but the National Championship went to Miguel Barbosa, second at last year’s event. João Ramos was third, while on the T2 Edgar Condenso was the winner, with the Championship going to César Sequeira. Luís Oliveira won amongst the Bikes, ending an 11-year tradition of victories for either António Maio (5 wins) or Mário Patrão (6). Roberto Borrego won the Quads, with João Dias triumphing on the UTV and Daniel Russo winning the Buggies.

2014 – Ricardo Porém took his first win at the Baja Portalegre 500, which represented also winning the National Championship. Meanwhile. Vladimir Vasilyev was six, taking the World Cup for Cross Country Rallies title. On two wheels, Mário Patrão took his six win, and the National title, while João Lopes was the best amongst the UTV, with Ricardo Carvalho winning on Quads and Bruno Martins on Buggy.

2013 – Krysztof Holowczyc won the Baja Portalegre 500 for the second time, taking also the FIA Cup. Martin Kaczmarski made a 1-2 for Poland, with Pedro Grancha completing the rostrum. Mário Patrão won amongst Bikes, while Andrá Carita was the best in the Quads with Nuno Tavares taking the win on the UTV and Bruno Martins on Buggies.

2012 – Miroslava Zapetal was the winner, ahead of Rui Sousa and Boris Gadasin. António Maio was the winner amongst Bikes, with Rui Serpa and Mário Ferreira triumphing on Buggies, Roberto Borrego on Quads and Dadid Além on UTV.

2011 - More than 600 competitors for the Silver Anniversary of the event. After a sensational drive on the last SS, Filipe Campos won the car category, in front of Helder Oliveira and Miguel Barbosa. With this win, Campos became the most successful driver of event ranking. António Maio was first in the bikes, Roberto Borrego won the quad class, Jorge Monteiro topped the UTC category and Porelo brothers were fastest in the Buggy class.

2010 - Kryzstof Holowczyc in the FIA International Cup for Bajas, and Filipe Campos, for the Portuguese Championship, turn out to be the drivers with greater reason to celebrate at the end of the 24th edition of the Baja BP Ultimate Portalegre 500, running under difficult weather conditions, with rain making the task even tougher for competitors. The Polish driver also secured the win overall, ensuring its first success in Portugal. António Maio won the bike category.

2009 - Fourth victory to Filipe Campos (auto) and Mário Patrão (bike)

2008 - 144 Bikes and 90 cars at the start. The brand new Pajero Racing Lancer with Stephane Peterhansel and Jean Paul Cottet wins in its first race. In the motorbikes the local “hero” Antonio Maio wins again.

2007 - Portalegre saw for the third time, Miguel Barbosa and Miguel Ramalho claim victory. In the motorbikes the local António Maio wins.

2006 - 211 bikes and 114 cars at the start. Marc Blazquez dominate the race. Only in the first leg Miguel Barbosa fight for the win, but he had to stop due to a puncture. 3rd was Alexandre Ré – with the new Nissan Pathfinder. Between the bikes, Mario Patrão won and Luis Engeitado was the fastest of the quad squad.

2005 - 201 bikes and 133 cars at the start and a great entry from factory’s teams, VW with Carlos Sainz (first cross country race), Bruno Saby, Jutta Kleinschmidt and Mark Miller, and Mitsubishi, with Luc Alphand and Hiroshi Masuoka. Under some heavy rain there was a great race between Sainz, Kleinschmidt and Alphand, and the winner was the Mitsubishi of Alphand.

2004 - Colin McRae made his first race with his new Nissan Pick Up, entered by Nismo.

2003 - Porta da Ravessa wine gives way to a new wine: Anta da Serra, of the same company, took the name of the event.

2002 - As a FIA Baja Cup event, the race is re-entered the National Championship, as a “Joker” event. National TV Station RTP was granted the exclusive TV rights of the event.

2001 - A third special stage was introduced for the cars, ran Sunday morning. The event is candidate of the FIA Cup of Bajas.

2000 - The event did not count for the National Championship due to the TV rights exclusive with SIC Television.

1999 - Baja Porta da Ravessa 500 / Portalegre – A new sponsor again and until this date. The Adega Cooperativa do Redondo, producer of some of the best Alentejo Wines (Porta da Ravessa), became the main sponsor. For the first time this event was ran on two special stages for cars.

1997 - 11th Baja Galp 500 Portalegre – The event gets a news sponsor and, due to heavy rain, was shortened to 200 Kms. The main National TV Network – SIC, started a 5 years strong coverage of the event.

1990 - On the bikes, the race changed to one driver per bike. Entries rose to 250 cars and 450 bikes and an identical figure was reached on the following three years!

1989 - The event is run on a single lap of 500 km, under the name – 500 km Cerveja Sagres Portalegre.

1988 - Second edition with 2 laps on a 400 km itinerary (800 Km Finicisa – Portalegre)

1987 - First edition of the event under the name Rali Maratona de Portalegre Finicisa. With 2 laps on 350 km itinerary.

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