Wednesday, April 17, 2024

2023 Desafio Ruta 40: Stage 1 punctuated by tyre punctures

Yazeed Al-Rajhi was the top driver in Stage #1 of the Desafío Ruta 40, but two tyre punctures in the final thirty kilometres were his demise.

After finishing second to Nasser Al-Attiyah in Sunday’s Prologue, Al-Rajhi took the lead after sixty kilometres. Although he built an advantage over his fellow Hilux, the script flipped on him with a pair of tyre failures that enabled Al-Attiyah to win the stage by a minute and six seconds.

Sebastian Halpern, the only non-Hilux in T1, joined them on the podium and was 4:19 back of the winner.

Al-Rajhi was not the only leader to encounter unexpected trouble. In T3, João Ferreira had led much of the first half before gearbox problems brought his car to a stop after the checkpoint at KM 130, allowing Mitch Guthrie to take the lead. Ferreira consequently finished last in class and nearly an hour behind Guthrie.

Tyre attrition was a hairy topic in the mountains and gravel tracks leading from and to La Rioja. Like Al-Rajhi, Mattias Ekström had two punctures that knocked him off the T3 podium as Francisco López Contardo and Seth Quintero took those spots.

“It’s been a really long stage,” said RallyGP rider Luciano Benavides. “At the beginning, we started out through some riverbeds and then after that there was a lot of pistes, so it was very fast and very slippery. We destroyed the tyres today and thankfully it didn’t cost me as much time as some other riders. There wasn’t too much navigation today, so I just kept my head down and stayed safe.”

Benavides finished second in his class to Tosha Schareina who, while not racing for the World Rally-Raid Championship, continued to impress in his second W2RC round with the manufacturer. Schareina leads Benavides in the general ranking by just a second; overall times for FIM classes are determined by adding stage results with Prologue times, the latter multiplied by eight (Schareina set a time of 6:51 in the Prologue, amounting to 54:48 in the overall). Prologue winner Adrien Van Beveren is third overall, 1:09 back of Schareina.

Rally2 rider Michael Docherty hoped to play spoiler and kept pace with Schareina throughout the day, but the higher tier eventually caught up with him and he settled for ninth overall though still beat Bradley Cox by five minutes for the class win. Paolo Lucci finished fifth to continue his points battle with Romain Dumontier, the leader reeling from a fifteen-minute penalty for an engine change prior to Monday.

Penalties were also prevalent in RallyGP as Sam Sunderland, Ricky Brabec, and Pablo Quintanilla had time added for speeding. Brabec had been running third before falling back to sixth and the six-minute penalty sank him to ninth. Sunderland conceded his lack of track time due to his injuries has knocked him off his pace, with his infraction coming when he braked too late on slick terrain while entering a speed zone.

After being involved in a massive crash in the Prologue that sent his Can-Am down a cliff, Alfredo Olmedo was able to get his vehicle fixed in time for Monday and finished fourth in the Open T3 category. Diego Blas, the reigning South American Rally Race winner in T3.2, won in Open T4.

Stage #1 winners

Class Number Competitor Team Time
T1 200 Nasser Al-Attiyah Toyota Gazoo Racing 2:57:31
T3 302 Mitch Guthrie Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team 3:12:31
T4 402 Eduard Pons* South Racing Can-Am 3:37:25
RallyGP 68 Tosha Schareina* Honda Team 3:00:12
Rally2 111 Michael Docherty BAS World KTM Racing Team 3:08:23
Rally3 122 Ardit Kurtaj Xraids Experience 3:52:12
Quad 152 Manuel Andújar 7240 Team 3:23:00
Open Auto 650 Blas Zapag* Copetrol Rally 3:38:37
Open T3 670 Jeremías Gonzalez Ferioli* Ferioli Racing Team 3:26:29
Open T4 675 Diego Blas* GM Motorsport 3:55:44
Open Moto 611 Juan Cruz Carrizo* JC Electricidad SA 3:38:08
Open Quad 623 Santiago Rostan* Pampa Rental Rally Team 3:56:10
* – Not competing in World Rally-Raid Championship

Leaders after Stage #1

Class Number Competitor Team Time
T1 200 Nasser Al-Attiyah Toyota Gazoo Racing 2:57:31
T3 302 Mitch Guthrie Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team 3:12:31
T4 402 Eduard Pons* South Racing Can-Am 3:37:25
RallyGP 68 Tosha Schareina* Honda Team 3:55:00
Rally2 111 Michael Docherty BAS World KTM Racing Team 4:05:51
Rally3 122 Ardit Kurtaj Xraids Experience 5:04:20
Quad 152 Manuel Andújar 7240 Team 4:22:36
Open Auto 650 Blas Zapag* Copetrol Rally 3:38:37
Open T3 670 Jeremías Gonzalez Ferioli* Ferioli Racing Team 3:26:29
Open T4 675 Diego Blas* GM Motorsport 3:55:44
Open Moto 600 Joaquín Debeljuh* RVM Rally Team 4:46:49
\