Monday, March 4, 2024

2023 Desafio Ruta 40: Benavides shuts down Schareina sweep in Stage 4

Tosha Schareina has been the top rider at the Desafío Ruta 40 as evidenced by his three stage wins in as many days to kick it off. However, Luciano Benavides was not going to let a Spaniard run Argentina again.

After finishing runner-up in each leg from Monday through Wednesday, Benavides finally snapped Schareina’s win streak with a masterful showing in the second half of Stage #4. He beat Schareina by just thirty-six seconds, narrowing his overall deficit to 5:47 entering the final stage on Friday. With third-placed Ricky Brabec over twenty-three minutes away, Benavides is the only rider with a chance to take the win from Schareina barring disaster for the leader.

While a relatively tall order, another top showing on Friday is especially imperative for the Argentinian as the rally ends in his hometown of Salta.

“Finally, I have got a stage win at my home race; the most important one at Fiambalá,” said Benavides. “Honestly, at the beginning this morning, I was taking things a little steady because I didn’t feel so confident. But then after the neutralisation, I saw the dunes and decided to push.

“It was really good. I was able to catch Tosha ahead of me and then opened for a few kilometres. I really gave my all today, and so towards the end of the special I started to get tired, and I think because of that, I made a small mistake that maybe cost me two minutes. But I was still able to take the win and it feels great. Tomorrow is the final stage and I get to open on the way to Salta, which was always my plan and will feel great in front of my home fans. Hopefully, I can deliver another good result and a strong finish to the rally.”

Unlike the two-man battle in the top motorcycle class, the margin in highest car category is thrice as wide as Nasser Al-Attiyah won his third stage. Yazeed Al-Rajhi finished second by 2:14, though the gap likely would have been smaller had it not been for a a punctured right front tyre just sixty kilometres before the finish.

Juan Cruz Yacopini, who placed third and four minutes back of Al-Attiyah, sits second overall but trails by 15:42. Unless he retires on the final day, Al-Attiyah is poised to score his third overall win of 2023 and virtually clinch the World Rally-Raid Championship with one race to go.

Misfortunes were aplenty for everyone in T3 but leader Mitch Guthrie. While Guthrie finished second to João Ferreira after a monster run by the latter in the closing kilometres, Seth Quintero and Nicolás Cavigliasso—who entered Thursday tailing Guthrie by 7:27 and 7:32, respectively—suffered mechanical problems as the former’s intercooler failed and the latter’s car stopped at KM 262 after leading at the 100-km mark. Cavigliasso was able to restart his car and salvage a twelfth while Quintero retired from the stage. Quintero’s retirement knocks him out of the overall while Cavigliasso falls from third to eighth and over two-and-a-half hours back.

The next closest cars to Guthrie are Red Bull team-mates Cristina Gutiérrez, Austin Jones, and Francisco Lopéz Contardo, though Gutierrez trails by 22:39. Jones and Lopez are mostly left to fight for third as six minutes separate them. Despite recording his first stage win since Stage #8 of the Dakar Rally in January, Ferreira is twenty minutes behind Lopéz for fourth and has little chance of cracking the podium on pace.

Similar to Ferreira, Michael Docherty has been the top rider in Rally2 but will not win the class overall. He notched his third stage win on Thursday in impressive fashion and just missed the overall bike podium in fourth, though he otherwise set the best time on pure speed as the top three had time bonuses for being the first to start the stage. If not for bowing out of Stage #2 with a mechanical failure, he would likely be leading Rally2 going into Stage #5. Instead, Bradley Cox has twenty-eight minutes on Konrad Dąbrowski.

Eduard Pons is also a victim of the same circumstance. He defeated Gustavo Gallego for the T4 win in Stages #1, #2, and #4, but a broken tie road in the lone non-win eliminates him from the rally win. Shinsuke Umeda crashed on Thursday while Enrico Gaspari struggled with vehicle trouble on Stage #2, meaning Gallego can cruise to the win on Friday.

Umeda’s accident took place in the dunes at the 240th kilometre. Moments prior, T3 drivers Mattias Ekström and Gabriel Rodríguez slid down a large dune just three kilometres ahead and were able to climb back up, forcing them to go around it. Ekström had set the fastest time in his class through the first checkpoint but ended the day in eighth while Rodríguez was ninth.

Francisco Moreno passed Manuel Andújar for the Quad win in the final fifty kilometres, though the latter leads that class in the general ranking by over eleven minutes.

Stage #4 winners

Class Number Competitor Team Time
T1 200 Nasser Al-Attiyah Toyota Gazoo Racing 2:57:41
T3 305 João Ferreira X-raid Team 3:12:23
T4 402 Eduard Pons* South Racing Can-Am 3:30:31
RallyGP 77 Luciano Benavides Husqvarna Factory Racing 2:53:57
Rally2 17 Michael Docherty BAS World KTM Racing Team 2:57:17
Rally3 123 Mauricio Cueva Xraids Experience 4:46:38
Quad 154 Francisco Moreno* 7240 Team 3:40:48
Open Auto 650 Blas Zapag* Copetrol Rally
Open T3 670 Jeremías Gonzalez Ferioli* Ferioli Racing Team 3:25:02
Open T4 678 Juan Jose Semino* Xcorpion Rally Racing 4:38:49
Open Moto 600 Joaquín Debeljuh* RVM Rally Team 4:14:56
Open Quad 623 Santiago Rostan* Pampa Rental Rally Team 4:56:07
* – Not competing in World Rally-Raid Championship

Leaders after Stage #4

Class Number Competitor Team Time
T1 200 Nasser Al-Attiyah Toyota Gazoo Racing 12:35:59
T3 302 Mitch Guthrie Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team 13:27:20
T4 403 Gustavo Gallego* South Racing Can-Am 15:23:13
RallyGP 68 Tosha Schareina* Honda Team 13:15:26
Rally2 21 Bradley Cox BAS World KTM Racing Team 14:17:42
Rally3 122 Ardit Kurtaj Xraids Experience 19:56:40
Quad 152 Manuel Andújar 7240 Team 16:27:05
Open Auto 650 Blas Zapag* Copetrol Rally
Open T3 670 Jeremías Gonzalez Ferioli* Ferioli Racing Team 14:39:52
Open T4 678 Juan Jose Semino* Xcorpion Rally Racing 17:26:46
Open Moto 600 Joaquín Debeljuh* RVM Rally Team 17:58:39
Open Quad 623 Santiago Rostan* Pampa Rental Rally Team 21:25:55
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