Saturday, July 13, 2024

Rokas Baciuska secures second straight W2RC T4 title

Rokas Baciuška and co-driver Oriol Vidal have been so dominant in the World Rally-Raid Championship‘s T4 category that they could skip a race and have the title wrapped up before the season ends. They did just that when they elected not to run last week’s Desafío Ruta 40, and their lead is still unsurmountable going into the Rallye du Maroc in October.

Baciuška chose to sit out the DR 40 in Argentina due to logistical complications and feeling that he is so far in the championship that there was no reason to take part. Prior to Argentina, he was 103 points ahead of Dakar Rally winner Eryk Goczał, who is not running the full season but was mathematically still in contention had he entered the final two races.

While he lost to Goczał at Dakar, Baciuška has since put on a clinic in T4. He edged out Mansour Al-Helei for the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge overall via penalty, but Pau Navarro was second among W2RC competitors and nearly half an hour back. At the Sonora Rally, he won all five stages and the Prologue to beat Rebecca Busi and Shinsuke Umeda by two hours.

Umeda was the only W2RC T4 driver at the DR 40. Competing in a field of just four entries, he finished fourth overall but received the maximum fifty points for technically being the category’s W2RC winner. While this moved Umeda past Goczał in the standings for second, he is still sixty points back of Baciuška.

Winning the championship in such dominant fashion comes as a breath of fresh air for Baciuška, who barely claimed the 2022 T4 crown by just six points over Goczał’s father Marek.

“It’s official: I’m a two-time World Rally-Raid Champion,” wrote Baciuška. “And the way to the podiums was very diverse.”

Vidal also clinched the co-driver’s championship with Eryk Goczał’s navigator Oriol Mena in second, the latter later working with Guoyu Zhang at Abu Dhabi in the T1 category. Umeda replaced Aku Facundo Jaton, who worked with him for the first three races, with Maurizio Dominella for the DR 40; Jaton remains third in points and 110 points behind Vidal.

With his successes in T4, Baciuška has been looking to compete in higher categories in the future like T3 for Light Prototypes. In July, he made his début in a T1 at the Baja España Aragón, where he finished ninth overall due to penalties and a late tyre puncture that sank him from an otherwise third-place run.

T4 is the first W2RC category of 2023 to have a clinched champion. Nasser Al-Attiyah is on the verge of doing the same in T1 with a 51-point advantage on Yazeed Al-Rajhi, but needs four more points at the season finale in Morocco to be fully assured of his second straight title.

Even with the title secured, Baciuška is expected to enter the Rallye du Maroc on 13–18 October to prepare for the 2024 Dakar Rally.