The 2018 Hungarian Baja winners, Joan ‘Nani’ Roma and Alex Haro of the Mini John Cooper Works Rally — X-raid Team.
The 2018 Hungarian Baja winners, Joan ‘Nani’ Roma and Alex Haro of the Mini John Cooper Works Rally — X-raid Team.

The 15th edition of the Hungarian Baja ended with double celebration for Mini Motorsport and motorsport partner X-raid, when the two Mini John Cooper Works Rally entries finished one-two overall.

Joan "Nani" Roma and co-driver Alex Haro cheered the loudest when they took the overall win as a result of three Special Stage wins and never dropping out of the top three in the other stages.

Roma had another reason to smile: he last competed at a Hungarian Baja in 2013 and took the win. Five years later, he returns to win again.

Roma and Haro didn’t have it all their own way. They were pushed to the end by fellow Mini Family crew of Jakub "Kuba" Przygonski and co-driver Tom Colsoul. In fact, it was the young Polish star that opened the scoring by taking the win in the Super Special Stage that kick-started two days of racing.

Przygonski and Colsoul also secured stage wins but the final result was fought out over the last stage and featured stretches of water that held Przygonski back just enough for Roma to hold on to take the win by just 16 seconds. Despite taking second place, Przygonski leaves Hungary with much needed points to maintain his lead within the 2018 FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup.

"It’s nice to win here and to have the feeling of racing the car again. Kuba did a very good job; he is really fast and for us it was difficult doing the Baja speeds after Silk Way Rally, but we are happy. The team did a super job, I did some kilometres with Alex and the Mini John Cooper Works Rally worked very well, which is the most important thing," says Joan "Nani" Roma.

On the local motorsport front, following the recent Atlas Copco 400, round four of the 2018 South African Cross Country Series that took place outside Bronkhorstspruit, the title battles in the Production Vehicle category are looking to go down to the wire with only two rounds of the series remaining.

This means competitors who stand a chance of championship titles as well as those with the best possible standings in mind, will have to not only pull out all the stops, but will have to do so swiftly as time is running out to make up for lost ground.

A maiden overall and FIA Class victory for Henk Lategan/Barry White (Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Hilux) at the Atlas Copco 400, with team-mates Giniel de Villiers/Dennis Murphy not scoring points at the event as well as a maiden Class T victory for Gary Bertholdt/Geoff Minnitt (Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux) resulted in the top five positions looking somewhat different.

De Villiers/Murphy retained their overall lead, but Lategan jumped two places and is now second and trails the Dakar Rally hero by 33 points. This forced Lance Woolridge (NWM Ford Ranger) to third place in the overall driver standings, seven points behind Lategan while Johan Horn (Malalane Toyota Hilux) lost his podium position. He is fourth, eight points behind Woolridge and although Bertholdt held onto fifth place, only three points separate him from Horn.

The top five in the overall Navigator Championship has also undergone a shuffle. Murphy still leads and Ward Huxtable, who reads the notes for Woolridge, is still second albeit by only 20 points. White’s rise to the podium means he is in striking distance of Huxtable as three points separate them. Werner Horn, who accompanies his brother Johan, and the only team to have started, finished and scored points at each event so far this season, dropped off the podium to fourth place, but with only five points separating him from White, the battle is on.

Minnitt moved into the top five and trails Horn by a mere three points. With a blanket of only 11 points covering four navigators from second to fifth place and a gap between the leader and the rest that can be closed at one event, the overall navigator’s championship is wide open.

In the drivers’ standings, the positions behind Bertholdt might have stayed the same, but the intensity is higher as the margins now look different. Chris Visser (Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux) is sixth and trails Bertholdt by six points while Gareth Woolridge (NWM Ford Ranger), is seventh just 13 points adrift. Terence Marsh, who makes use of various celebrity navigators in the Red-Lined Motorsport Nissan Navara during the season, is eighth followed by David Huddy (Nissan Navara) and Johan van Staden (Elf Renault Duster) jumping from 17th place to 10th after finishing sixth at the recent Atlas Copco 400.

With only two rounds of the 2018 SA Cross Country Series remaining, these standings can change quickly and with not much time to make up for lost points, the stage is set for some fierce competition. The penultimate round of the series, the Harrismith 400, takes place at the Eeram Farmers Complex on the outskirts of Harrismith on September 14 and 15.