Italian Baja successfully completed with Stage wins and top ten placings for the MINI ALL4 Racing of Al Rajhi and Menzies.
Italian Baja provides close, exciting racing but punctures eventually determine final outcome of fifth and sixth positions for MINI ALL4 Racing crews.
The 23rd Italian Baja ( 23-26th June) provided an enthralling race that saw the leading position change on numerous occasions during the three-days of racing across rocky river beds and the surrounding dry landscape of Pordenone.
The MINI ALL4 Racing (#202) of Yazeed Al Rajhi (KSA)/Timo Gottschalk (GER) and (#214) Bryce Menzies (USA)/Tom Colsoul (BEL) were both in the thick of the action from the start of the Italian Baja. The opening Super Special Stage (Leg 1) of Friday evening (26th June) netted the MINI ALL4 Racing crews with top five results. Al Rajhi finished with an impressive second and Menzies completed in fourth position.
Leg 2, Saturday (25th June) saw Al Rahji take the win in Stage 3 and assume overall lead going into the final day of racing on Sunday (26th). Bryce Menzies was hot on the heels of Al Rahji during Stage 3 and finished with a fine second place.
The first stage of two on Sunday produced even more shifts in the leading group, no thanks mainly to punctures. The efforts of a determined Menzies were finally rewarded with the win at the end of the first 74.5 km stage. This win lifted the crew of Menzies/Colsoul to race leader with one more stage to play for. The MINI ALL4 Racing of Al Rajhi/Gottschalk completed in sixth.
The final stage (Stage 5) was the reverse direction of the previous stage and set to be a classic race with any one of six cars likely to take the overall win. But again fate dealt a cruel hand in the usual form of punctures. Stage 5 ended with the MINI ALL4 Racing (#214) of Menzies/Colsoul in 13th, with (#202) Al Rajhi/Gottschalk classed as completing in 16th.
Overall race classification placed the two competing MINI ALL4 Racing in fifth and sixth positions. The crew of Menzies (USA) and Tom Colsoul (BEL) took fifth spot – a remarkable achievement indeed because this was only the second outing for the American driver in a MINI ALL4 Racing.
“We got a flat tyre,” said a still smiling Menzies. “It’s just bad luck. We had to stop and change the wheel. At the end I didn’t know where we had placed because it was so close. Never mind; I still had fun and learned a lot.”
Two punctures and time spent assisting the MINI ALL4 Racing of fellow X-raid Team family member Menzies from mud conspired against the duo of Al Rajhi/Gottschalk. The time taken to get back into the racing beat was small but the racing was so competitive the lapsed time was difficult to make up. Their overall position was classed as sixth overall.
Meanwhile, the testing information gained from both drivers and the MINI ALL4 Racing cars has again proved invaluable towards development of the MINI ALL4 Racing in preparation of Dakar Rally 2017.
2016 Italian Baja : MINI ALL4 Racing positions at race end
|5th||Bryce Menzies (USA)||Tom Colsoul (BEL)||214||X-raid Team||3:43:55
|6th||Yazeed Al Rajhi (KSA)||Timo Gottschalk (GER)||202||X-raid Team||3:49:15
Race calendar: 2016 FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies
19/02 – 22/02 Baja Russia
02/04 – 7/04 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge
17/04 – 22/04 Sealine Cross-Country Rally Qatar
23/06 – 26/06 Italian Baja
22/07 – 24/07 Baja Aragón
11/08 – 14/08 HunGarian Baja
25/08 – 28/08 Baja Poland
03/10 – 08/10 Rallye Oilibya du Maroc
21/10 – 23/10 Baja Portalegre 500