Saturday, July 13, 2024

2023 Desafio Ruta 40: Retirements stack up in Stage 3

The Desafío Ruta 40‘s third stage, a loop outside Belén, alternated between fast and slow sections. Likewise, the field seemed to flipped between reaching the finish and bowing out with many contenders bowing out for mechanical failure.

After winning Stage #2 in T3, Mattias Ekström‘s day was already over on the twenty-eighth kilometre when his front differential broke. His exit opened the door for class leader Mitch Guthrie to win ahead of Red Bull team-mate Austin Jones. A similar issue occurred in the production SSV class when Eduard Pons, winner of the first two stages in T4, broke a tie rod at KM 43.

Wednesday was unusually one-sided in the T1 category as all five Toyota Hilux drivers completed the stage while the Mini JCW of Sebastián Halpern—the only non-Hilux in the class—was forced to retire after forty kilometres with a broken axle. Halpern had struggled with a broken alternator on Tuesday, and his retirement the following day effectively ends his hopes of repeating after winning the last DR 40 in 2018.

Even if not for the DNF, Halpern was already facing an uphill battle to catch the Hiluxes. Nasser Al-Attiyah extended his overall lead with his second stage win while Stage #2 victor Juan Cruz Yacopini went from trailing him by seventeen seconds to over eleven minutes including a one-minute penalty. Yazeed Al-Rajhi, the only other driver close enough to the leader, is eighteen minutes back.

While Ekström and Halpern are still able to compete on Thursday onwards if their vehicles can be repaired, medical concerns have forced riders Sam Sunderland and Paolo Lucci out of the race. Sunderland, who was running seventh overall in RallyGP entering Wednesday, fell ill overnight and reached the Stage #3 refuel point where he elected to withdraw. Lucci, the Rally2 points leader, crashed in Stage #2 and hit his head and side on the sand; although he completed the stage, he struggled to sleep and wake up the following morning, and plans to return home for evaluation.

“It wasn’t the easiest decision but as he couldn’t ride at his best, he opted to pull out of the race,” said Red Bull GasGas rally manager Norbert Stadlbauer on Sunderland’s exit. “It’s a shame for sure but it was the right decision and now we can look forward to the upcoming races, starting with the Rally du Maroc in October.”

Sunderland withdrawing moves Toby Price up a spot in the overall from tenth to ninth. With the RallyGP points leader still last in his class, Price is looking to salvage as much points as possible to minimise the blow to his standing after losing an hour to a broken shock absorber on Tuesday, especially as second-placed Luciano Benavides continues to impress with his third consecutive runner-up stage finish. Price finished Stage #3 in fifth, ten minutes back of Tosha Schareina.

With Lucci out of the rally, Romain Dumontier is in position to overtake him for the Rally2 championship lead. After a disastrous start to the DR 40, Dumontier has rebounded with a runner-up in Stage #2 and a fourth the next day. He is currently fourth overall, hampered by sixteen minutes of penalties, but is forty-two seconds behind Jean-Loup Lepan for third.

Manuel Andújar scored his second stage win in Quad, though his Yamaha Raptor 700 took a beating that caused it to leak oil and the damper to break.

Stage #3 winners

Class Number Competitor Team Time
T1 200 Nasser Al-Attiyah Toyota Gazoo Racing 2:54:53
T3 302 Mitch Guthrie Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team 3:13:12
T4 403 Gustavo Gallego* South Racing Can-Am 3:38:50
RallyGP 68 Tosha Schareina* Honda Team 2:58:13
Rally2 17 Michael Docherty BAS World KTM Racing Team 3:10:21
Rally3 123 Mauricio Cueva Xraids Experience 4:21:49
Quad 152 Manuel Andújar 7240 Team 3:40:06
Open Auto 650 Blas Zapag* Copetrol Rally 4:44:38
Open T3 670 Jeremías Gonzalez Ferioli* Ferioli Racing Team 3:23:21
Open T4 678 Juan Jose Semino* Xcorpion Rally Racing 4:07:33
Open Moto 608 Marcio Yampa* MEB Belén Rally 4:11:01
Open Quad 623 Santiago Rostan* Pampa Rental Rally Team 4:28:03
* – Not competing in World Rally-Raid Championship

Leaders after Stage #3

Class Number Competitor Team Time
T1 200 Nasser Al-Attiyah Toyota Gazoo Racing 9:38:18
T3 302 Mitch Guthrie Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team 10:13:07
T4 403 Gustavo Gallego* South Racing Can-Am 11:39:12
RallyGP 68 Tosha Schareina* Honda Team 10:20:53
Rally2 21 Bradley Cox BAS World KTM Racing Team 11:09:53
Rally3 122 Ardit Kurtaj Xraids Experience 15:03:11
Quad 152 Manuel Andújar 7240 Team 12:43:46
Open Auto 650 Blas Zapag* Copetrol Rally 13:43:18
Open T3 670 Jeremías Gonzalez Ferioli* Ferioli Racing Team 11:14:50
Open T4 678 Juan Jose Semino* Xcorpion Rally Racing 12:47:17
Open Moto 600 Joaquín Debeljuh* RVM Rally Team 13:43:43
Open Quad 623 Santiago Rostan* Pampa Rental Rally Team 16:08:48
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