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This is the single-news section of the news "Offroad & Motorsports". To see all news please use the link under the article or navigate with the left main-navigation.

Baja GB 2007: UK´s first ever FIA Baja Even gets underway this weekend.

International rally drivers and co-drivers from 14 countries will take part in the Baja GB 2007, round three of the FIA International Cup for Cross-Country Bajas, which gets underway with a ceremonial start at the Royal Welsh Showground in Builth Wells, mid-Wales, from 15.45 hrs on Friday, August 17th.

Leading an international contingent from Wales, Belgium, Northern Ireland, Russia, Italy, Holland, Spain, Qatar, the Czech Republic, England, Scotland, Australia, Slovakia and Poland into the punishing three-day forest event will be the former British Rally Champion, Alister McRae. The Scot and co-driver Campbell Roy will debut the new McRae Enduro prototype as an official course car. International teams will then tackle a timed super special stage in Radnor forest, near Bleddfa, from 16.38 hrs on Friday evening.

Baja GB ran for the first time last season in appalling weather conditions, but the organisers have worked tirelessly to expand this year and were duly rewarded with the exciting new Baja’s graduation to the prestigious FIA series. Cars complying to T1 and T2 regulations have been permitted to enter the main event, although there is a National ‘A’ rally or Y Rali Bryn Cymru for non-homologated cars and classes for both motorcycles and quads.

Defending FIA Baja champion Marc Blazquez heads a formidable overseas contingent that also includes the current Russian championship leader Boris Gadasin in an Overdrive Racing Nissan Navara and Qatar’s 1993 FIA Middle East rally champion Sheikh Hamed Bin Eid Al-Thani in a Ralliart Italy-prepared Mitsubishi Pajero. Spaniard Blazquez is chasing a hat-trick of FIA Baja titles this year.

Miroslav Zapletal and Zdenek Porizek will represent the Czech Republic in a pair of Mitsubishis. Miroslav is the reigning Czech champion, finished sixth in the Italian Baja and also won the Hungarian Prohun 500 event this season. He will take part in a 4.0-litre V6 petrol-engined L200 Strakar.

Piotr Beaupre represents Poland in a powerful Bowler Wildcat and there are Mitsubishi Pajero entries for Slovakia’s Jozef Sykora, Italy’s Andrea Spinelli, Belgian Vincent Thijs, Dutchman Toni van Deijne and Spaniards José-Manual Fernandez and Francesc Termens. Italians Giuseppe Fornasi and Franco Grigoletto drive a pair of buggy-like Fornasari RR450s. Last year’s inaugural Baja winner Ian Rochelle, from Bridgnorth in Shropshire, heads the home contingent in his Bowler Wildcat.

Host nation Wales will be represented in both the car and motorcycle categories: Chepstow’s Richard Hopkins lines up against the international four-wheel contingent at the wheel of his Land Rover Discovery, while Neath’s Lee Walters wheels out his BMW 650 motorcycle alongside Rowan Jones from Llanidloes on a Yamaha 450 and fellow Neath rider Nick Plumb.

Richard Haywood, from Newport in Gwent, will take to the forests in a Bowler Wildcat and Chepstow is further represented by the husband and wife co-driving duo of Sarah and Richard Suter, Sarah being the daughter of the chairman of the organising committee, Chris Tomley.

Y Rali Bryn Cymru or the National ‘A’ rally has attracted 10 starters, with several well known faces from the BORC and last year’s Baja taking part. They include Oxford’s Henry Webster, Trevor Milner, Mike Moran, Dan Lofthouse and Glen McKeith.

The 23-strong motorcycle category will be fiercely contested with Burntwood’s Lee Edmondson and Cannock’s Derrick Edmondson hoping to make the fight for victory an all-family affair. Younger brother Lee won the event last year and has sacrificed a Junior Enduro race in Finland to try and prevent brother Derrick taking KTM’s new 530 EXC-RS to the title.

The motorcycle race has strength in depth: Newcastle’s Brian Eland is sure to be on the pace on his LC4, while the Isle of Man’s Kieran Clotworthy, Doncaster’s Matt Lee, Oxford’s Paul Howard, Steve Holland, Ulverston’s Tony Brooks, Macclesfield’s Lawrence Barber, Telford’s Chris Bickerton, Caister-on-Sea’s Neil Tanner, Abingdon’s Lee Peck and Shipley’s Dan and Adam Evans are all keen to take the silverware.

Seasoned Dakar Rally campaigners Patsy Quick, from Heathfield and Clive Town also entered the fray at the 11th hour and were joined by Oxford’s Gordon McPherson, Dorset’s David Dickinson, Bournemouth’s Ray Watton and Huddersfield’s Matt Harrison. Harrison entered the inaugural Baja on a quad in 2006.

Four riders will take part in the quad category, which was won by Matt Lee last August. Lee has opted to ride a motorcycle this year, although Bradford’s Mark Calzoni (Yamaha Raptor), Dorset’s Paul Green (Bombardier 800), Daniel Upton and 17-year-old Yorkshire sport management student Naomi Ridley are among the quad challengers.

This year’s Baja GB has the full backing of the Welsh Assembly Motorsport Initiative, the Forestry Commission Wales and the Motor Sports Association (MSA). Around £100,000 has been invested by the Welsh Assembly Government and the Forestry Commission Wales to upgrade and improve forest tracks in mid-Wales to offer a challenging and varied route to competitors.

"We are thrilled to be hosting the Baja GB," said Stephen Buckley, Forestry Commission Wales’s head of social forestry. "With the continued success of Wales Rally GB, our forests are well used to hosting global events which bring in millions of pounds to the Welsh economy."

"A lot of people have put many long hours into making this event possible and it is a fitting reward for their efforts that we have been rewarded with a truly international entry with strength in depth," said Chris Tomley, chairman of the organising committee.

The event reaches its conclusion in Builth Wells on Sunday, August 19th after up to seven special stages in the Radnor, Myherin, Sweet Lamb and Hafren forest areas of mid-Wales.

Spectator information - approximate times

Friday, August 17th

Baja start, RWAS, Builth Wells: 15.45 hrs
Super Special - Radnor: 16.38 hrs

Saturday, August 18th (time denotes first car/bike)

Service Park, Sweet Lamb: from 08.00 - 15.00
SS Sweet Lamb: 08.50 hrs
SS Tarenig: 10.00 hrs
SS Sweet Lamb: 12.28 hrs
SS Tarenig: 13.37 hrs
SS Sweet Lamb: 14.20 hrs

Sunday, August 19th

Service Park, Sweet Lamb: from 08.00 - 15.00
SS Sweet Lamb: 08.20 hrs
SS Tarenig: 09.30 hrs
SS Sweet Lamb: 12.08 hrs
Baja finish, RWAS, Builth Wells: 13.00 hrs onwards (bikes first - 1st car 15.30 hrs)

The Super Special stage on Friday evening in Radnor forest is accessible via the A488 at Bleddfa (grid reference SO 232 681).

There are three vantage points close to the service area in Sweet Lamb (five miles west of Llangurig on the A44 - grid reference SN 840 828), where competitors pass twice on each Sweet Lamb stage.

The two spectator points in Hafren forest are accessible via the B4518. Access is via Staylittle (grid reference SN 873 904) or Cwmbiga (grid reference SN 859 890). There are three vantage points here, including the steep Dragon’s Back climb. The Myherin and Tarenig sections are accessible from Devils Bridge at The Arch on the B4574 (grid reference SN 765.5 756).

All designated spectator areas have catering and toilet facilities. Cars and bikes will be competing on alternate stages at the same time, so there should be continuous action throughout both Saturday and Sunday. Spectating at all forest vantage points is free, although there will be a £10 parking charge per car and £5 per bike or quad.

2007/08/17 | 13:34 CET | Editor: MR/HS/Neil Perkins

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