Elite rally-raid’s return to Argentina for Desafío Ruta 40 provided pulsating action from start to finish. Big names rose and fell in the World Rally-Raid Championship rankings as the dunes between La Rioja and Salta laid their traps. Let’s find out which racers dealt with the unique challenges of Desafío Ruta 40 better than the rest…
Seeing Nasser Al-Attiyah
taking victory in the T1 car class of the W2RC is nothing new, but the Qatari didn’t have things all his own way in Argentina. Five punctures and a broken damper spring on Stage 2 put the reigning Dakar and W2RC champion’s rally in serious doubt. However, the sand racing expert was able to bring his Toyota GR DKR Hilux T1+ to the finish line that day. Then it was back to business for Al-Attiyah and co-driver Mathieu Baumel
who won the remaining three stages to win Desafío Ruta 40 for the first time. He now leads the championship by 51 points after three wins from four rounds as he plots his next assault on the Dakar Rally
“It’s always a good feeling to win and now I only need a few more points in Morocco for the championship. It was great to be racing here in Argentina again and I’m already looking forward to coming back next year to defend the title.” – Nasser Al-Attiyah
While Al-Attiyah still needs four more points in Morocco next month to confirm his W2RC driver’s title, Baumel has already done enough this season to retain his W2RC co-driver’s crown.
“The rally is done and we’ve got first place! We picked up lots of points for the championship and made some more great memories of racing here in Argentina. The landscape was amazing!” – Mathieu Baumel
The most competitive class of the entire W2RC once again proved to be the T3 category as drivers from the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA presented by BFGoodrich and Red Bull Can-Am Factory Team raced wheel-to-wheel for close to 2,000km through northern Argentina.
When the dust finally settled it was back-to-back wins for Mitch Guthrie Jr.
in the T3 class of the W2RC. The Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA presented by BFGoodrich driver led in Argentina from start to finish to add Desafío Ruta 40 victory to his win at Mexico’s Sonora Rally in April. Guthrie Jr. and co-driver Kellon Walch
had the pace in their MCE5 machine, prepped by Wevers Sports, to get ahead of their rivals on the prologue stage and maintain top spot through to the finish line. There was late drama for Guthrie Jr. on the final stage but on-track help from his Wevers Sport companion Nico Cavigliasso kept him on course for the win.
“It was a great rally. We had our ups and downs for sure, but we kept it together all the way. We’re stoked with the overall win, that’s two in a row now. It was my first time racing here so we were learning a lot as we went.” – Mitch Guthrie Jr.
Guthrie Jr. now finds himself leading the hunt for overall W2RC glory ahead of team-mates Seth Quintero
and Austin ‘AJ’ Jones
. A broken intercooler on Stage 4 took Quintero and co-driver Dennis Zenz
out of the running for the Desafío Ruta 40 podium, but a win on Stage 5 saw useful points added to their W2RC total. Jones and co-driver Gustavo Gugelmin
also put points on the board thanks to their third place finish in the T3 category in Argentina. The points difference between the three American drivers is now just nine points, meaning everything is still all to play for at next month’s Rallye du Maroc.
“The rally was super awesome. The people have been great and the route was awesome. I wish I had some better luck on my side but it is what it is. We’re going to come back fighting at the next rally. We’re not completely out of the championship so we’ll go all out in Morocco.” – Seth Quintero
and co-driver Pablo Moreno
of the Red Bull Can-Am Factory Team clinched overall second spot in T3 class while the duo’s team-mates Chaleco López
/Juan Pablo Latrach
finished fourth overall.
“We’re happy with our result, second place overall. We made a good race here with no problems, no punctures. It was a tough race and we saw lots of other cars having problems.” – Cristina Gutiérrez
and co-driver Emil Bergkvist missed out on the podium against the up and coming driving talents in the T3 class. The Swedish duo suffered a mechanical mishap on Stage 3 as their search for a T3 race win continues.
Results in Argentina have seen Rokas Baciuška
of the Red Bull Can-Am Factory Team confirmed as this season’s T4 title winner. The Lithuanian racer did not make the trip to South America, but his W2RC points total of 189 mean that nobody in the T4 category can catch him now.
Two-time Dakar winner Toby Price
arrived in Argentina leading the bike category of the W2RC, but leaves having slipped down into second place overall. A broken shock absorber on Stage 2 threatened to take Price out of the race completely. It was the Esprit de Cour of team-mate Matthias Walkner
that allowed Price to continue as the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing riders carried out repairs on the track. Price was able to carry on and finish the stage, but Walkner’s race was run. Sam Sunderland
of Red Bull GasGas Factory Racing was another high profile rider who was unable to complete Desafío Ruta 40.
“It’s been a rough week. Unfortunately day two was a really big hindrance to us. It’s not a great result and it’s not great for the championship. All in all, we’re happy to get the rally done and get out in one piece.” – Toby Price
Despite losing more than an hour on Stage 2, Price battled back and even ended the rally on a high as he set the fastest time on the fifth and final stage. The Australian now trails Husqvarna rider Luciano Benavides
in the W2RC rankings by nine points. Luciano claimed a crucial 25 points by being the first W2RC rider to reach Salta and the hometown hero was congratulated on the finish line by his big brother Kevin Benavides
Next up for the World Rally-Raid Championship convoy is the fifth and final round of the season. The 2023 Rallye du Maroc gets going on Friday, October 13 with a Prologue Stage before the chequered flag flies on Wednesday, October 18. Champions will crowned in Merzouga.
Desafío Ruta 40: Final Top 3
1. N. AL-ATTIYAH (QAT) TOYOTA 15:10:03
2. J. YACOPINI (ARG) TOYOTA +22:03
3. Y. AL RAJHI (SAU) TOYOTA +30:27
1. M. GUTHRIE JR. (USA) MCE5 16:22:31
2. C. GUTIERREZ (ESP) CAN-AM +16:18
3. A. JONES (USA) CAN-AM +27:43
1. G. GALLEGO (ARG) CAN-AM 18:34:37
2. E. GASPARI (ITA) POLARIS +4:04:49
3. E. PONS SUNE (ESP) CAN-AM +19:32:48
1. T. SCHAREINA (ESP) HONDA 15:56:46
2. L. BENAVIDES (ARG) HUSQVARNA +7:36
3. R. BRABEC (USA) HONDA +21:16
World Rally-Raid Championship: Rankings
1. N. AL-ATTIYAH (QAT) TOYOTA 189 points
2. Y. AL RAJHI (SAU) TOYOTA 138
3. J. YACOPINI (ARG) TOYOTA 109
1. M. GUTHRIE JR. (USA) MCE5 174 points
2. A. JONES (USA) CAN-AM 171
3. S. QUINTERO (USA) CAN-AM 165
1. R. BACIUSKA (LTU) CAN-AM 189 points
2. S. UMEDA (JPN) POLARIS 134
3. E. GOCZAL (POL) CAN-AM 86
1. L. BENAVIDES (ARG) HUSQVARNA 80 points
2. T. PRICE (AUS) KTM 71
3. A. VAN BEVEREN (FRA) HONDA 66