The fourth edition of the SuperFinale, running alongside the sixth round of the 2023 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas in Portugal, got underway on Thursday evening with the official ceremonial start in Portalegre town centre.
Even the wet conditions could not dampen the enthusiasm of the local crowd as the 27 YXZ1000Rs, with competitors from nine different countries participating in this year's season-ending showcase, drove through the arch to signify the beginning of the SuperFinale.
The real action kicked off on Friday morning with a 3.71km Special Stage Prologue, followed by a tricky 61.81km Special Stage 2. The heavy rain that the region experienced in the lead-up to the event continued on Friday and made conditions treacherous for all the drivers, with deep mud and flooded trails providing a real challenge for the SSVs.
Local driver Vítor Domingos, competing in the Open class, set the pace in the Prologue, which not only counts towards the general classification but also decided the starting order for the second special of the day, with a time of three minutes and 21.6 seconds.
In the Stock category, the Spanish duo of Edesio Caamaño and co-driver Carmelo Moline led the way after recording a time of three minutes and 24.2 seconds.
The rain became even heavier for the start of the second stage, with the British pairing of William Butler and Jonny McKnight rising to the challenge to finish as the leading YXZ1000R, topping the Stock class after completing the special in 56 minutes and 12.5 seconds in a dramatic finish that saw them end the special just 0.9s ahead of fellow Brits Kevin Haran and Paul Severn.
This means Buller and McKnight hold the overnight lead in the Stock category with a combined time of 59 minutes and 49.6 seconds, one minute and 16.4 seconds ahead of Portuguese driver Paolo Fernandes in second, while Haran and Severn are in third, two minutes and 13.1 seconds off the lead.
Domingos backed up his pace in the Prologue to finish the second special as the leading Open class SSV with a time of 58 minutes and 18.1 seconds, just seven and a half seconds ahead of fellow Portuguese driver Jorge Lopez.
Heading into the second day in the Open category, it is Domingo who leads the way with a combined time of one hour, one minute and 39.7 seconds, just 23.7 seconds ahead of Lopez in second, with Luís Caseiro and co-driver João Azeiteiro making it an all Portuguese top three.
The final day of the SuperFinale consists of a gruelling 303km Special Stage 3 that will put all the competitors to the test and, with the ultimate prize of €15,000 to be used to compete in the 2024 European Cup up for grab for the winner of the Stock class, there is all still to play for.