Al-Rajhi/Gottschalk Fend Off Al-Attiyah/Boulanger To Seal Last-Gasp Victory At Desafio Ruta In Argentinia.

Al-Rajhi/Gottschalk Fend Off Al-Attiyah/Boulanger To Seal Last-Gasp Victory At Desafio Ruta In Argentinia.

On an event where a mere one second separated the leading two crews after 70km of the final stage of an enthralling six-day Desafío Ruta 40, Overdrive Racing’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Timo Gottschalk got the better of arch-rivals Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Edouard Boulanger to eventually win the event by 40 seconds.

Victory for the Overdrive Racing pairing in their Toyota Hilux means that Al-Attiyah and Boulanger were unable to clinch the Qatar’s third successive Drivers’ Championship in the FIA World Rally-Raid Championship (W2RC). He now has a 25-point lead to take to the final round, while Toyota Gazoo Racing increased its lead over Nasser Racing by Prodrive in the W2RC Manufacturers’ Championship.

Al-Rajhi led after stages one and two, despite incurring a one-minute speeding penalty in SS2. Al-Attiyah was also handed a 20-second time penalty for speeding on stage one and a further 2min 50sec after SS2 but the duo remained the class of the 28-strong FIA field.  

Al-Rajhi maintained a slender cushion over Al-Attiyah after the third stage but Al-Attiyah hit back to win stage four, only to incur a one-minute penalty for failing to wear seat belts and head restraints in a correct manner after a brief on-stage stoppage. That meant the Qatari lost the lead but began the last stage first on the road and trailing Al-Rajhi by 13 seconds.

The lead swapped throughout the course of the final 218 competitive kilometres with the gap down to one second at one point before Al-Rajhi opened up a gap to the finish to secure his first W2RC win of the season.

Al-Rajhi said: “We drove with determination, giving it our all, until we reached the halfway point and saw that Nasser was 27 seconds ahead. This made me realise we had lost the lead. We pushed to the limit. I swear, we pushed hard in the second half of the stage to make up the 27 seconds we lost and we even added some extra time.

“Between the mountains, we took risks, driving at 150km/h through dangerous terrain. Before reaching the finish line, I told Timo that no matter our result in this rally, we had done everything we could. We were the winners. I’ve never been as exhausted in my life as I was here, especially in this stage because I was driving fast, despite the risks.”

Al-Attiyah added: “It was an amazing race. We finished second and that keeps us in a strong position to fight for the championship. We will be racing in the final round in Morocco with our new car (Dacia) and the aim is to finish this season as World Champions.

“I’ve been selected for the Paris Olympics in the skeet shooting event, which will be my seventh Olympic Games. I’ll head straight to Italy for 10 days of training, then I have a test with the new Dacia in Morocco before spending an entire month preparing for the Olympic event in Châteauroux on August 1st and 2nd.”

Al-Attiyah hit back to win stage four

Sebastien Halpern and Bernard Graue continued the tradition of having an Argentinean on the podium at this event. They brought the solitary X-Raid Mini Cooper Works Rally Plus to the finish in third overall and also collected valuable points towards the W2RC Manufacturers’ Championship.

Denis Krotov and Konstantin Zhiltsov guided the second of the Overdrive Racing Toyota Hiluxes to the finish in Córdoba in fourth position.

Lucas Moraes started the opening stage from 28th place after shedding a right-rear wheel near the start of the Prologue. The Brazilian surged through the field to clock the third quickest time on the opening stage. He was then fastest overall in SS2 to consolidate third place with co-driver Armand Monleón but fourth stage suspension issues cost him a potential podium finish. The Brazilian climbed two places on the final stage to reach the finish in fifth and hold a distant third in the W2RC Drivers’ Championship.

Cristian Baumgart and Gustavo Gugelmin stopped for 27 minutes on the penultimate stage and began the last special in sixth place in the X Rally Team Hunter that was registered as part of the Nasser Racing by Prodrive team for W2RC Manufacturers’ points. The Brazilians clouted a rock on the final stage and reached the finish in 10th overall (sixth in the Ultimate class) behind the leading four Challenger category crews (see below).

American Seth Quintero got stuck in a ditch on stage one trying to overtake a rival and dropped 25 minutes. The Toyota Gazoo Racing driver and his German navigator Dennis Zenz then stopped twice with ongoing mechanical issues on stage four and slipped back to an eventual 11th overall.

Juan Cruz Yacopini had finished on the podium on his home event in 2023 but the Argentine rolled his Toyota Hilux after 144km of stage two and then damaged his car still further after another accident on the fourth stage. Further examination of the condition of the car’s roll cage confirmed that there was damage and FIA officials removed him and co-driver Dani Oliveras from the start list for stage four on safety grounds.

Brazilian Marcos Baumgart ground to a halt after 251km of the opening Córdoba loop stage and was unable to continue in his X Rally Team Hunter.

Baciuška seals W2RC Challenger victory in Argentina

The Can-Am Factory Team’s Rokas Baciuška teamed up with Frenchman Sébastien Delaunay and delivered one of his finest performances to lead the Challenger category from start-to-finish and come home in sixth overall.

The result means that Baciuška and the Can-Am Factory Team have all but sealed the Challenger title with one round to spare. It is still mathematically possible, however, for Argentinean title rival Nicolas Cavigliasso to score the necessary points at the final round. He finished seventh in the general classification.

Baciuška beat Cavigliasso by 4min 22sec on the opening stage but the gap was reduced to 4min 12sec when the Lithuanian incurred a 10-second penalty for speeding. He was the class of the field in SS2 as well and extended his lead over the Argentine to 11 minutes. Brazilian Marcelo Tiglia Gastaldi was 34 seconds further adrift in third.

Baciuška said: “It’s our first time winning this rally and it was a pleasure to race in front of these fans. We’re still missing some points to be world champion and we’ll be back to finish the job in Morocco.”

Baciuška seals W2RC Challenger victory in Argentina

Nazareno López was not registered for points for claimed the win on the San Juan loop stage from Cavigliasso and Gastaldi but Baciuška retained a lead of 5min 55sec. The Lithuanian bounced back strongly on stage four, set the third quickest time across all the categories and took a commanding 9min 23sec lead into the final stage. A cautious run by the Lithuanian saw the last stage win go to Saudi Arabia’s Dania Akeel in her Taurus T3 Max but Baciuška had done enough to win the category by 8min 49sec from Cavigliasso.

Akeel and her French co-driver Stéphane Duplé rounded off the Challenger podium in eighth overall in their T3 Max and Gastaldi and his co-driver Carlos Sachs finished fourth in Challenger and ninth in the general classification.

Cavigliasso’s co-driver Valeria Pertegarini leads the Challenger Co-Drivers’ Championship by five points from Oriol Vidal.

Ramilo leaps into SSV title contention with Argentine win

Ricardo Ramilo arrived in Argentina holding third in the SSV Drivers’ Championship but a decisive victory for the Spaniard means that the title will be decided at the final round in Morocco.

Yasir Seaidan began the event with a lead of 37 points in the SSV class but the Saudi lost the early initiative in the first stage when he stopped after 300km with turbo-related issues. Unable to repair his Can-Am, Seaidan incurred a fistful of time penalties and plummeted to the foot of the SSV rankings. His service team were not able to resolve the problem in Córdoba either and the Saudi retired.

That opened the door for Ramilo, Ecuador’s Sebastien Guayasamin, Enrico Gaspari and Rebecca Busi to fight it out for championship points. Ramilo was fastest on the opening stage to lead from Busi and Gaspari but Gaspari hit back to win stage two in his Polaris RZR Pro R and snatch a slender advantage.

Ramilo hit the front on the next stage with the quickest time with Gaspari and Guayasamin holding second and third and Busi slipping back to fourth. The Spaniard was comfortably quickest on the penultimate stage as well and headed into the short sprint to the finish with a 14min 51sec lead over Busi after both Guayasamin and Gaspari hit trouble.

Ramilo held on to take the win and Guayasamin overhauled Busi to snatch second with French veteran Claude Fournier finishing fourth ahead of Gaspari. Busi had teamed up with the South Racing Can-Am Team for the first time and worked with Uruguayan co-driver Sergio Lafuente.

The result means that Guayasamin leads the SSV Drivers’ Championship by six points from Seaidan with Ramilo 20 points adrift in third. Ramilo’s co-driver Fausto Mota increased his lead in the SSV Co-Drivers’ Championship.

The 2024 FIA World Rally-Raid Championship (W2RC) reaches a conclusion at the Rally of Morocco at the start of October.

2024 Desafio Ruta 40 – final result:

1. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Timo Gottschalk (DEU) Toyota Hilux Overdrive                                                          17hr 38min 21sec

2. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Edouard Boulanger (FRA) Prodrive Hunter                                                         17hr 39min 01sec

3. Sebastian Halpern (ARG)/Bernardo Graue (ARG) Mini Cooper Works Rally Plus                               18hr 24min 37sec

4. Denis Krotov (KGZ)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (ISR) Toyota Hilux Overdrive                                                         18hr 40min 50sec

5. Lucas Moraes (BRA)/Armand Monleón (ESP) Toyota GR DKR Hilux                                                         18hr 51min 24sec       

6. Rokas Baciuška (LTU)/Sébastien Delaunay (FRA) Can-Am Maverick X3                                                         18hr 54min 59sec

7. Nicolas Cavigliasso (ARG)/Valeria Pertegarini (ARG) Taurus T3 Max                                                           19hr 03min 48sec

8. Dania Akeel (SAU)/Stéphane Duplé (FRA) Taurus T3 Max                                                                        19hr 16min 43sec

9. Marcelo Gastaldi (BRA)/Carlos Sachs (BRA) Taurus T3 Max                                                                    19hr 16min 53sec

10. Cristian Baumgart (BRA)/Gustavo Gugelmin (BRA) Prodrive Hunter                                                          19hr 50min 07sec

11. Seth Quintero (USA)/Dennis Zenz (DEU) Toyota GR DKR Hilux                                                             20hr 03min 03sec

12. Hernan Garces (CHL)/Juan Pablo Latrach (CHL) Can-Am Maverick X3                                                         20hr 11min 58sec*

13. Ricardo Ramilo (ESP)/Fausto Mota (PRT) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR                                                     20hr 35min 43sec

14. Lucas Del Rio (CHL)/Bruno Jacomy (ARG) Can-Am Maverick X3                                                           20hr 38min 55sec*

15. Sebastian Guayasamin (ECU)/Fernando Acosta (ARG) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR               20hr 47min 45sec

16. Rebecca Busi (ITA)/Sergio Lafuente (URY) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR                                                     20hr 47min 50sec

17. Claude Fournier (FRA)/Serge Gounon (FRA) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR                                  22hr 53min 12sec

18. Nadia Lafuente (URY)/Maria Uribe (COL) Can-Am Maverick X3                                                           23hr 49min 51sec*

19. Juan Carlos Cerda (CHL)/ Álvaro León (CHL) Can-Am Maverick X3                                                          37hr 44min 46sec*

20. Oscar Santos (PRY)/Mirna Periera (PRY) Can-Am Maverick X3                                                            39hr 47min 11sec*

21. David Zille (ARG)/Jose Cesana (ARG) Taurus T3 Max                                                                             39hr 51min 15sec

22. Enrico Gaspari (ITA)/Cesare Rickler del Mare (ITA) Polaris RZR Pro R Sport                                                39hr 53min 58sec

23. Nazareno Lopez (ARG)/Lisandro Sisterna (ARG) Taurus T3 Max                                                          59hr 28min 37sec*

Puck Klassen (NLD)/Augusto Sanz (ARG) Taurus T3 Max                                                                              RETIRED – SS5*

Juan Cruz Yacopini (ARG)/Daniel Oliveras (ESP) Toyota Hilux Overdrive                                                          RETIRED – SS4

Sandro Peppi (CHL)/Raimondo Peppi (CHL) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR                                                         RETIRED – SS3*

Marcos Baumgart (BRA)/Kleber Cincea (BRA) Prodrive Hunter                                                                  RETIRED – SS1             

Yasir Seaidan (SAU)/Michaël Metge (FRA) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR                                                         RETIRED – SS1

*denotes not registered for W2RC

Source : Fia