Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah closed in on his second successive FIA World Rally-Raid Championship (W2RC) title on a gruelling six-day Desafío Ruta 40, where Overdrive Racing-run Toyota Hiluxes filled the top four positions in the general classification.
Despite a series of punctures and broken suspension, Al-Attiyah and his Andorra-based co-driver Mathieu Baumel led from the start in La Rioja to the finish in Salta, won the Prologue and four of the five timed selective sections to record a winning margin of 22min 03sec over the Overdrive Racing duo of Argentine Juan-Cruz Yacopini and his Spanish co-driver Daniel Oliveras. Baumel duly clinched a second successive W2RC Co-drivers’ title with one round to spare.
Al-Attiyah now has a massive 51-point cushion over Toyota team-mate Yazeed Al-Rajhi in the Drivers’ Championship, while the result means Toyota Gazoo Racing has now clinched the W2RC Manufacturers’ Championship after wins at the Dakar, Sonora Rally and Desafío Ruta 40 for Al-Attiyah and success in Abu Dhabi for Al-Rajhi.
Al-Attiyah’s maiden win was the second for an overseas driver at the Desafío Ruta 40 to follow on from Spaniard Joan Roma’s victory in 2013. The winning Qatari said: “It’s nice to win the race. I’m happy to win. It’s great to be in Argentina again, the stages are spectacular, the organisation did a great job. We don’t feel any different from the last time we raced here with the Dakar.”
Yacopini won his first ever W2RC stage on day three and moved up to third in the Drivers’ Championship after an impressive performance on his home event.
Al-Rajhi and co-driver Timo Gottschalk rounded off the podium places in the second of the Overdrive Racing Toyotas to retain second place in the Drivers’ and Co-Drivers’ Championships. Punctures also blighted the Saudi’s progress but he pushed Al-Attiyah hard on several stages and may well have finished second had be not lost considerable time on stage two.
Partnered by Bernardo Graue, Sebastián Halpern headed to the rally lying fourth in the Drivers’ Championship and bidding to win his home event for the third time to add to wins in 2016 and 2018.
The sole X-raid Mini Cooper Works Rally Plus driver in the field stopped with alternator issues in a series of dunes towards the end of the second stage and then retired with transmission woes the following day on the Belén loop. That dropped the Argentine to the foot of the rankings with additional time penalties added but he recovered well with the second quickest time on the final stage to finish 17th overall and now holds fifth in the Drivers’ Championship.
The result meant that Toyota Gazoo Racing clinched the 2023 W2RC Manufacturers’ Championship with one round to spare. The X-raid Mini JCW Rally Team tightened their grip on second place.
Guthrie and Walch cruise to T3 success
Mitch Guthrie and Kellon Walch led from the Prologue to the finish in Salta to record a comfortable 16min 18sec victory in the T3 category for lightweight prototype cross-country machines. In so doing, the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA presented by BF Goodrich MCE-5 4x4 driver catapulted himself into contention for the title and now leads the championship by three points, his cause helped by securing success on the Prologue and taking two stage wins.
Guthrie said: “It was a lot of fun, a very challenging race, tough. It was my first time here in Argentina. The place is amazing. First overall in the race is great.”
Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA title rivals Austin Jones and Seth Quintero suffered mixed fortunes over the six-day event. Jones and co-driver Gustavo Gugelmin lost ground on their rivals early in the race and began to climb through the field as the event progressed to claim third and hold second in the title race.
Quintero pressured Guthrie hard early in the race before a 10-minute time penalty for running with a spare wheel missing and subsequent intercooler issues dropped the American and co-driver Dennis Zenz to third of the registered W2RC contenders. They eventually finished 11th and eighth of the W2RC registered crews.
The Red Bull Can-Am Factory Team duo of Cristina Gutiérrez and Juan Pablo Moreno Huete also moved through the field in the right direction and finished in Salta as Guthrie’s closest challengers in second overall. Team-mates, Francisco ‘Chaleco’ Lopez and Juan Pablo Latrach, were classified in fourth place.
Portugal’s João Ferreira and Manuel Pórem won the fourth stage in their Yamaha X-raid YXZ 1000 R Turbo Prototype but earlier transmission delays pushed the crew down the order and technical issues on the final stage saw them finish eighth and fifth of the registered W2RC crews.
The South Racing Can-Am Team duo of Mattias Ekström and Emil Bergkvist won the second and fifth stages, but like their team-mates, David Zille and Sebastian Cesana, they lost time in the middle of the race and both teams were eventually classified in seventh and ninth in W2RC.
Umeda earns maximum W2RC T4 points; victory for Gallego
Shinsuke Umeda was the only driver competing in T4 registered for the W2RC in his Xtreme Plus Polaris. The Japanese and his Italian co-driver Maurizio Dominella overcame a crash after 243km of the fourth stage to finish fourth in the category and claim maximum points. Lithuanian driver Rokas Baciuška is already an unassailable 60 points clear of the Japanese in the 2023 W2RC T4 title race.
The South Racing Can-Am Team’s Gustavo Gallego and Eugenio Arrieta won the category in Argentina and were fastest on SS3 after team-mates and early leaders Eduardo Pons and Jaume Betrui lost the lead with technical issues and finished third. Umeda’s team-mates, Enrico Gaspari and Ricardo Torlaschi, came home in second in their Polaris.
The final round of the FIA World Rally Raid Championship takes place in Morocco on October 12th-18th.
2023 Desafío Ruta 40 – final results:
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT/Mathieu Baumel (FRA) Toyota GR DKR Hilux 15hr 10min 03sec
2. Juan Cruz Yacopini (ARG)/Daniel Oliveras (ESP) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 15hr 32min 06sec
3. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Timo Gottschalk (DEU) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 5hr 40min 30sec
4. Eugenio Amos (ITA)/Paulo Ceci (ITA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 16hr 05min 57sec*
5. Mitch Guthrie (USA)/Kellon Walch (USA) MCE-5 4x4 (T3) 16hr 22min 31sec
6. Cristina Gutiérrez (ESP)/Juan Pablo Moreno Huete (ESP) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3) 16hr 38min 49sec
7. Austin Jones (USA)/Gustavo Gugelmin (BRA) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3) 16hr 50min 14sec
8. Francisco Lopez (CHL)/Juan Pablo Latrach (CHL) Can-Am Factory Maverick X3 (T3) 16hr 56min 18sec
9. Hernan Garces (CHL)/Bruno Jacomy (ARG) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3) 17hr 27min 46sec*
10 Denis Krotov (KGZ)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (ISR) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 18hr 08min 33sec
11 Juan Carlos Cerda (CHL)/Álvaro León (CHL) BRP Can-Am 4x4 (T3) 18hr 16min 50sec*
12 Gustavo Gallego (ARG)/Eugenio Arrieta (ARG) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR (T4) 18hr 34min 37sec*
13 Nicolas Cavigliasso (ARG)/Valeria Pertegarini (ARG) Taurus T3Max 4x4 (T3) 19hr 42min 39sec*
14 Enrico Gaspari (ITA)/Ricardo Torlaschi (ARG) Polaris RZR Pro R Sport (T4) 22hr 41min 26sec*
15 oão Ferreira (PRT)/Manuel Pórem (PRT) Yamaha X-Raid YXZ 1000R Proto (T3) 33hr 25min 49sec
16 Claude Fournier (FRA)/Szymon Gospodarczyk (POL) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3) 35hr 13min 33sec
17 Sebastián Halpern (ARG)/Bernardo Graue (ARG) Mini Cooper Works Rally Plus 35hr 43min 24sec
18 Mattias Ekström (SWE)/Emil Bergkvist (SWE) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3) 36hr 54min 44sec
19 Seth Quintero (USA)/Dennis Zenz (DEU) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3) 37hr 43min 18sec
20 David Zille (ARG)/Sebastien Cesana (ARG) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3) 37hr 49min 24sec
21 Eduardo Pons (ESP)/Jaume Betriu (ESP) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR (T4) 38hr 07min 25sec*
22 Oscar Santos Peralta ((PRY)/Loutival Roldan (BRA) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3) 39hr 49min 09sec*
23 Shinsuke Umeda (JPN)/Maurizio Dominella (ITA) Polaris RZR Pro R Sport (T4) 41hr 47min 02sec
24 Gabriel Rodriguez (ARG)/Santiago de la Vega (ARG) Taurus T3Max 4x4 (T3) 43hr 50min 58sec*
*denotes not registered for W2RC
T1+ unless stated
Prologue Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (Toyota)
SS1-SS5 Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (Toyota)
Prologue Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (Toyota)
SS1 Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (Toyota)
SS2 Juan Cruz Yacopini (Toyota)
SS3 Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (Toyota)
SS4 Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (Toyota)
SS5 Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (Toyota)
2023 W2RC Drivers’ Championship – after round 4 (unofficial):
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT) 189pts
2. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU) 138pts
3. Juan Cruz Yacopini (ARG) 109pts
4. Sébastien Loeb (FRA) 101pts
5. Sebastián Halpern (ARG) 89pts