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·         Divino Fogão Rally Team crew win four special stages and Prologue opener


FOZ DO IGUAÇU (BRAZIL): Reinaldo Varela and Gustavo Gugelmin enjoyed a superb outing in the eight-day Rally dos Sertões in their native Brazil and reached the finish in first overall to achieve a crushing start-to-finish victory in their Overdrive Racing Toyota Hilux. 


The Divino Fogão Rally Team pairing won the Prologue stage in Goiânia and four of the seven timed special stages to reach the finish in Foz do Iguaçu (Igaucu Falls) 14min 22sec ahead of second-placed Marcos Baumgart and Kleber Cincea. 


“This is a fantastic win for our team and something that has not happened before on such a long rally,” said Overdrive’s Belgian team director Jean-Marc Fortin. “Seven days of rally provides a long and difficult challenge and we have proven that the car was reliable from the start. There were never any problems at all and I give a big thanks and congratulations to all my team for their hard work, with a month that started with the Baja in Spain and then we have the win here in Brazil and then we move, flat out, on to Hungary and Poland.


“Last year we were embroiled in a big fight for the win here. But, this time, we have shown the improvement across the board and Reinaldo was in control of the race from the very first stage. I honestly feel that we have probably the best chassis in the world with the Toyota Hilux at the moment.”


Varela began the event in superb fashion with the quickest time through the 1.9km Prologue stage at Goiânia on August 1st. The Toyota Hilux driver beat Guilherme Spinelli by 1.2 seconds to take a favourable starting position into the first special stage between Goiânia and Rio Verde. 


The Brazilian kept up the good work through that first special stage as well and reached Rio Verde with an overall lead of 5min 43sec, courtesy of the fastest time. His closest rival was Spinelli, while Joao Franciosi was a further 3min 13sec adrift in third. 


The second stage headed from Rio Verde to Itumbiara on August 3rd and Varela was again the form driver in his V8-engined Hilux. The Brazilian carded a stage time of 1hr 15min 54sec and that was sufficient for his lead over Spinelli to grow to 6min 56sec. 


The third stage passed between Itumbiara and São Simão on August 4th and Varela beat Marcos Baumgart by just under one minute to conserve his overall lead heading into the fourth stage into Três Lagoas on August 5th


He again maintained a cushion between himself and Baumgart to stay out in front and, when Spinelli hit trouble on the fifth special between Três Lagoas and Euclides da Cunha Palista on August 6th, the Overdrive Racing driver found himself in the lead of the rally by 17min 56sec heading into the final two days, despite setting the third quickest time.


The penultimate special meandered between Euclides da Cunha Palista and Umuarama on August 7th and Varela stayed out of trouble to reach the final overnight halt safely. He headed into the final stage between Umuarama and Foz do Iguaçu with a lead of 13min 46sec and started that last special from fourth on the road behind Cristian and Marcos Baumgart and Sylvio Barros.


There were no last minute dramas for the Toyota driver and he reached the finish with the stunning scenic backdrop of Foz do Iguaçu to seal a memorable win by the margin of 14min 22sec.


23rd Rally dos Sertões – final positions (unofficial):

1. Reinaldo Varela (BRA)/Gustavo Gugelmin (BRA) Overdrive Toyota Hilux            14hr 53min 25sec

2. Marcos Baumgart (BRA)/Kleber Cincea (BRA) Ford Ranger                                    15hr 07min 47sec

3. Cristian Baumgart (BRA)/Beco Anddreotti (BRA) Ford Ranger                               15hr 53min 58sec

4. João Franciosi (BRA)/Rafael Capoani (BRA) Mitsubishi Triton SR                        15hr 54min 21sec

5. Luiz Facco (BRA)/Humberto Piaui (BRA) Mitsubishi Triton SR                               16hr 12min 55sec

6. Jorley Amaral (BRA)/Maykel Justo (BRA) Sherpa Prototipo                                    16hr 30min 31sec

7. Luis Nacif (BRA)/Felipe Oliveira (BRA) Range Rover Evoque                                  16hr 35min 41sec