Saturday, July 13, 2024

2023 Desafio Ruta 40: Ardit Kurtaj adds Rally3 win in road to Dakar 2024

As Ardit Kurtaj prepares for his Dakar Rally début in 2024, he hopes to add a World Rally-Raid Championship to his résumé beforehand. He took a step in the right direction when he won the Rally3 category at the Desafío Ruta 40, beating Mauricio Cueva and Leo Dari.

With only three entries, the class was the smallest of the seven W2RC categories in Argentina. The same occurred at the Sonora Rally in April, the first Rally3 race of 2023, where Kurtaj finished second. He was the only rider from Sonora to also race the DR 40.

Cueva, who competed at the 2022 Rallye du Maroc with Kurtaj (though the latter was in Rally2 while Cueva remained in Rally3), set the tone early by being the only rider of the trio to set a Prologue time below nine minutes.

Kurtaj responded by winning the first two stages, the first by just forty-five seconds over Cueva before increasing it to over nineteen minutes minutes to lead by 13:55 entering Stage #3. Cueva claimed Stages #3 and #4, beating Kurtaj by a combined 12:18 to narrow the gap to seven minutes and four seconds going into the final day.

Stage #5 saw Kurtaj defeat Cueva by 4:03 to score the overall win.

Dari fell behind early as he finished an hour and twenty-four minutes behind Kurtaj in Stage #1. A mechanical failure ninety kilometres into the next day that sidelined him for Stage #3 ended his already slim chances of contending for the overall. He rejoined for the final two legs but finished at the back in both. Nonetheless, completing the rally is an achievement in itself and Dari still receives both a podium and points in the W2RC.

As the only Rally3 rider with multiple starts and a race winner, Kurtaj passes Sonora victor Massimo Camurri for the W2RC points lead with a twenty-point advantage. Cueva sits third while Dari and Alexander Chepurkó are tied for fourth as they finished third of three bikes in their respective races.

Rally3 typically generates much lower grid numbers than its higher Rally2 and RallyGP counterparts as a class for production motorcycles with certain limitations. Riders who are not yet qualified for RallyGP often opt to compete in Rally2 instead as those permit stock bikes without performance restrictions. Consequently, the category did not appear at the season-opening Dakar Rally nor the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.

With Rally3 expected to appear at the Rallye du Maroc in October, Kurtaj has stated he intends to race there before Dakar. Morocco, the final round of the 2023 W2RC, is often used as a last trial for teams heading to the Dakar Rally.

Rally3 overall results

Finish Number Rider Team Time Margin
1 122 Ardit Kurtaj Xraids Experience 23:15:45 Leader
2 132 Mauricio Cueva Xraids Experience 23:26:52 + 11:07
3 121 Leo Dari Leo Dari 88:06:01 + 64:50:16

Rally3 stage winners

Stage Rider Time
Prologue Mauricio Cueva 1:11:44
Stage #1 Ardit Kurtaj 3:52:12
Stage #2 Ardit Kurtaj 5:31:35
Stage #3 Mauricio Cueva 4:21:49
Stage #4 Mauricio Cueva 4:46:38
Stage #5 Ardit Kurtaj 3:19:05

Overall winners

Class Number Competitor Team Time
T1 200 Nasser Al-Attiyah Toyota Gazoo Racing 15:10:03
T3 302 Mitch Guthrie Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team 16:22:31
T4 403 Gustavo Gallego* South Racing Can-Am 18:34:37
RallyGP 68 Tosha Schareina* Honda Team 15:58:46
Rally2 21 Bradley Cox BAS World KTM Racing Team 17:01:01
Rally3 122 Ardit Kurtaj Xraids Experience 23:15:45
Quad 152 Manuel Andújar 7240 Team 19:24:30
Open Auto 650 Blas Zapag* Copetrol Rally 23:06:34
Open T3 670 Jeremías Gonzalez Ferioli* Ferioli Racing Team 17:34:31
Open T4 678 Juan José Semino* Xcorpion Rally Racing 20:59:00
Open Moto 608 Rodrigo de Abreu Sallum* MED Racing Team 22:36:24
Open Quad 623 Santiago Rostan* Pampa Rental Rally Team 25:28:33
Road to Dakar Auto 678 Juan José Semino* Xcorpion Rally Racing 20:59:00
Road to Dakar Moto 69 Juan Santiago Rostan* Pampa Rental Rally Team 25:28:33

W2RC Rally3 standings

Rank Rider Points Margin
1 Ardit Kurtaj 45 Leader
2 Massimo Camurri 25 20
3 Mauricio Cueva 20 25
T-4 Alexander Chepurkó 16 29
T-4 Leo Dari 16 29