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Baja GB 2007: Russian Gadasin leads Baja GB after Radnor Prologue.

Russian Baja championship leader Boris Gadasin and co-driver Alexander Mironenko were the early leaders of Baja GB 2007, round three of the FIA International Cup for Cross-Country Bajas, after the opening 9.6 km super special stage through Radnor forest in mid-Wales on Friday afternoon.

The Overdrive Nissan Navara pair finished the forest stage 15.5s ahead of Llandrindod Wells-based rally driver Graham Middleton and co-driver Shaun O'Gorman, with the Slovakian duo of Josef Sykora and Marek Sykora in third place at the helm of a Mitsubishi Pajero.

Eighteen Baja GB cars and eight entrants in Y Rali Bryn Cymru (the National 'A' event) were flagged away from the start at the Royal Welsh Agricultural Showground in bright conditions in Builth Wells. Only cars took part in the opening super special stage, as the 29-strong bike and quad entry made their way directly to the Sweet Lamb service park for the start of their event on Saturday morning.

Spaniard Mark Blazquez won the FIA Baja series in 2005 and 2006 and is under pressure to achieve a good result in Wales. He held fifth in a Nissan Navara after the opening stage. "We have won the championship for the last two years, said Blazquez. "But this year will be more difficult. We retired in Italy and had a bad result in Spain. I am in a private team this year and we are entering each event in different cars. I will try my best over the weekend, but it will not be easy over these forest stages in Wales."

Bridgnorth's Ian Rochelle admitted that it would be difficult to repeat last year's Baja GB triumph. The Shropshire builder finished 15th overall on the Radnor super special and heads into the weekend in a cautious mood. "I won the event last year and that was a fantastic feeling to be the first winner of Baja GB. But it will not be easy to win again this time. Competition is tough, but we will give it our best shot."

Chepstow's Richard Hopkins held a fine fourth position in a Land Rover Discovery and Richard Haywood, from Newport in Gwent, was 17th. Qatar's former Middle East rally champion, Sheikh Hamed Bin Eid Al-Thani, was a cautious 14th in a Ralliart Italy Mitsubishi Pajero and Belgian Vincent Thijs rounded off the international contingent in his 18th-placed car.

Dan Lofthouse and Simon Kerfoot were the early leaders of Y Rali Bryn Cymru in their Lofthouse Proto LD4. The Bolton driver finished the Radnor stage 20.2 seconds ahead of Ben Gott and Chris Hammond in a TMC DB MII. Trevor Miler was third in a Milner ProTruck R45.

Burntwood's Lee Edmondson arrived in Builth Wells keen to defend his Baja motorcycle title. "I won last year and decided a couple of weeks ago that I should come back and defend my title instead of going to Finland to take part in a Junior Enduro," said the youngster. "There are six or seven riders on the entry who are capable of giving me a run for my money and my brother is one of them! It will be all to play for over the next two days."

Tomorrow (Saturday) marks the first of two legs of varied special stages in the mid-Wales forests, before the event reaches its conclusion in Builth Wells on Sunday, August 19th. Bikes and cars will tackle alternate stages, meaning that spectators will benefit from almost continuous action in the upper reaches of the Wye and Severn valley areas of mid-Wales.

2007/08/18 | 12:41 CET | Editor: MR/HS/Neil Perkins | Pics: Brinkman

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