Saturday, March 2, 2024

2023 Desafio Ruta 40: Prologue kicks off action in Argentina

The Desafío Ruta 40 officially made its return Sunday after a four-year dormancy with a nine-kilometre Prologue through La Rioja. While rallies are not won and lost in something as short as the prologue, they can prove to be a quick litmus test of contenders over the next week of actual competition.

Indeed, World Rally-Raid Championship leader Nasser Al-Attiyah set the tone quickly as he and fellow Toyota Hilux driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi led the way. Al-Attiyah, who will finish out the season with Toyota despite his contract originally being scheduled to end after Argentina, beat Al-Rajhi by eight seconds.

Mitch Guthrie led the T3 entries in third overall. Gabriel Rodríguez, in his maiden T3 start, tied with Mattias Ekström though the latter had the edge for second by just five tenths of a second. Seth Quintero, who beat Guthrie for the Vegas to Reno win last week, finished seventh.

Non-W2RC drivers Eduard Pons and Gustavo Gallego were also split for the top in T4 by .5 seconds.

The top seven FIA overall cars recorded times below seven minutes, with the T3 of João Ferreira barely missing out by a second at 7:00.9.

Unlike the last round in Sonora where the Rally2 of Bradley Cox beat the top-level RallyGP bikes in the Prologue, RallyGP riders occupied the top ten for the leg here with Adrien Van Beveren beating Luciano Benavides by nine-tenths of a second. W2RC points leader Toby Price was sixth.

Diego Llanos placed eleventh as the top Rally2 ahead of Michael Docherty by half a second, the latter returning from a wrist injury that sidelined him for Abu Dhabi and Sonora. Cox was third in class.

Father and son Blas Zapag and Blas Zapag Peralta topped their classes in Open Auto and Open Moto, respectively.

The top ten in FIA and FIM got to select their starting positions for Stage #1 on Monday. Al-Rajhi will be the first car to start the leg while Al-Attiyah rolls out fourth, whereas José Ignacio Cornejo begins the rally as the opening bike and Van Beveren elected to be tenth.

Prologue winners

Class Number Competitor Team Time
T1 200 Nasser Al-Attiyah Toyota Gazoo Racing 6:33.9
T3 302 Mitch Guthrie Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team 6:50.9
T4 402 Eduard Pons* South Racing Can-Am 7:37.1
RallyGP 42 Adrien Van Beveren Monster Energy Honda Rally Team 6:48.5
Rally2 29 Diego Llanos* Xraids Experience 7:10.8
Rally3 123 Mauricio Cueva Xraids Experience 8:58.1
Quad 179 Marcelo Medeiros* Taguatur Racing Team 7:26.0
Open Auto 650 Blas Zapag* Copetrol Rally 7:57.9
Open UTV 670 Jeremías Gonzalez Ferioli* Ferioli Racing Team 7:19.8
Open Moto 606 Blas Zapag Peralta* MED Racing Tea 8:14
Open Quad 623 Santiago Rostan* Pampa Rental Rally Team 9:17
* – Not competing in World Rally-Raid Championship
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