Sunday, May 19, 2024

2023 Sonora Rally: Mitch Guthrie holds off Ekstrom for T3 triumph

The World Rally-Raid Championship‘s T3 category is enjoying a streak of parity to begin 2023 as all three rounds have been won by a different driver, even if they’re all Red Bull team-mates.

The streak continued as Mitch Guthrie scored his maiden W2RC victory at the Sonora Rally, edging out Mattias Ekström by less than seven minutes. Guthrie, who is no stranger to the Mexican desert as the 2017 Baja 1000 UTV overall winner, remains third in the T3 standings behind fellow American Red Bull drivers Seth Quintero and Austin Jones, but the gap to the leader is cut in more than half from forty-six after Abu Dhabi to twenty.

Ekström, racing in T3 for the second straight race, had the early advantage as he won the first and third stages while the Red Bull factory racers squabbled amongst themselves. However, Guthrie hit his stride and won Stage #4 to take the overall lead while Ekström had an off-day and placed sixth. Guthrie entered the final day leading Ekström by 1:09, and the margin ended up growing to six-and-a-half minutes when the latter got stuck in traffic and suffered a tyre puncture.

“Super excited to take the overall win at the Sonora Rally,” wrote Guthrie. “Thanks to the whole team for all their hard work. It was a battle the entire rally and we’re stoked! This is a big win for us and see you on the next one.”

Settling for runner-up in the final stage meant Ekström was the lone driver to hold second overall in consecutive legs. The position traded hands multiple times starting with João Ferreira, who broke up the Can-Am party in his Yamaha after placing second to Guthrie in the Prologue before an electrical issue and water pump failure knocked him off the spot the following day. Francisco Lopéz Contardo won Stage #2 to assume second, only to lose it to a broken front axle thirty kilometres into the third leg. Cristina Gutiérrez moved up into second thanks to her top five run until Guthrie overtook Ekström in the penultimate stage.

Jones snuck onto the podium on the final day when he finished fifth, 1:35 ahead of Lopéz and seven minutes on Gutiérrez. With Quintero’s struggles while Guillaume de Mévius and Hernán Garcés are part-timers, Jones is the only driver in T3 to score podium finishes in all three rounds to date, winning the Dakar Rally and placing second at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. Red Bull colleague Rokas Baciuška in T4, Paolo Lucci in Rally2, and Laisvydas Kancius in Quad have also achieved the feat.

Gutiérrez and Lopéz respectively finished fourth and fifth, the latter virtually out of contention after his Stage #3 problems and half an hour back of Gutiérrez. Lopéz, the reigning W2RC T3 champion, was making his racing return after skipping Abu Dhabi to focus on fatherhood.

Quintero had a difficult rally as his Can-Am was plagued by mechanical issues from the first stage. He had to settle for tenth, which bumped him up to ninth since sixth-placed Diego Martinez is not racing for W2RC points, and still holds the championship lead over Jones even if by just one point.

David Zille was the only driver not named Guthrie or Ekström to win a stage as he closed out the rally with his second career stage victory (the first came at the Dakar Rally). He was classified eighth as a broken hub in Stage #4 eliminated him from contention; Zille had been fifth overall prior to the issue.

T3 overall results

Finish Number Driver Co-Driver Team Time Margin
1 302 Mitch Guthrie Kellon Walch Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team 11:17:24 Leader
2 308 Mattias Ekström Emil Bergkvist South Racing Can-Am 11:24:02 + 6:38
3 301 Austin Jones Gustavo Gugelmin Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team 11:28:10 + 10:46
4 304 Cristina Gutiérrez Pablo Moreno Huete Red Bull Can-Am Factory Racing 11:30:02 + 12:38
5 303 Francisco Lopéz Contardo Juan Pablo Latrach Red Bull Can-Am Factory Racing 11:58:54 + 41:30
6 311 Diego Martinez* Sergio Lafuente South Racing Can-Am 12:11:42 + 54:18
7 305 João Ferreira Filipe Palmeiro X-raid Team 12:16:18 + 58:54
8 307 David Zille Sebastian Cesana South Racing Can-Am 12:59:28 + 1:42:04
9 309 Annett Quandt Lisette Bakker X-raid Team 13:00:31 + 1:43:07
10 300 Seth Quintero Dennis Zenz Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team 13:07:02 + 1:49:38
11 306 Claude Fournier Szymon Gospodarczyk Team BBR 13:26:24 + 2:09:00
* – Not competing in World Rally-Raid Championship

T3 stage winners

Stage Driver Time
Prologue Mitch Guthrie 5:45
Stage #1 Mattias Ekström 1:40:15
Stage #2 Francisco Lopéz Contardo 1:33:25
Stage #3 Mattias Ekström 3:39:27
Stage #4 Mitch Guthrie 2:51:44
Stage #5 David Zille 1:20:31

Overall winners

Class Number Competitor Team Time
T1 201 Nasser Al-Attiyah Toyota Gazoo Racing 10:29:55
T3 302 Mitch Guthrie Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team 11:17:24
T4 400 Rokas Baciuška Red Bull Can-Am Factory Racing 11:51:05
RallyGP 18 Daniel Sanders Red Bull GasGas Factory Racing 11:01:09
Rally2 17 Romain Dumontier HT Rally Raid Husqvarna Racing 11:48:21
Rally3 57 Massimo Camurri Freedom Rally Racing 15:59:16
Quad 162 Laisvydas Kancius AG Dakar School 15:33:14
National Car/UTV 605 Sara Price* SP Motorsports 17:14:04
National Enduro 513 Brendan Crow* Brendan Crow 16:37:36
National Malle Moto 501 Matt Sutherland* Matt Sutherland 18:24:08

W2RC T3 standings

Drivers’ standings

Rank Driver Points Margin
1 Austin Jones 146 Leader
2 Seth Quintero 145 – 1
3 Mitch Guthrie 126 – 20
T-4 Cristina Gutiérrez 78 – 68
T-4 Francisco López Contardo 78 – 68
6 João Ferreira 74 – 72
7 Mattias Ekström 54 – 92
8 Claude Fournier 42 – 104
T-9 Jean-Luc Ceccaldi 41 – 105
T-9 David Zille 41 – 105
11 Aliyyah Koloc 34 – 112
12 Hélder Rodrigues 22 – 124
13 Annett Quandt 20 – 126
14 Dania Akeel 15 – 131
15 Erik van Loon 13 – 133

Co-drivers’ standings

Some co-drivers have worked with drivers in other categories. Those do not count for this championship nor are they mentioned below.

Rank Co-Driver Driver Points Margin
1 Gustavo Gugelmin Austin Jones 146 Leader
2 Dennis Zenz Seth Quintero 145 – 1
3 Kellon Walch Mitch Guthrie 126 – 20
T-4 Pablo Moreno Huete Cristina Gutiérrez 78 – 68
T-4 Juan Pablo Latrach Francisco López Contardo 78 – 68
6 Filipe Palmeiro João Ferreira 74 – 72
7 Emil Bergkvist Mattias Ekström 54 – 92
T-8 Cédric Duplé Jean-Luc Ceccaldi 41 – 105
T-8 Sebastian Cesana David Zille 41 – 105
10 Stéphane Duplé Aliyyah Koloc 34 – 112
T-11 Szymon Gospodarczyk Claude Fournier 22 – 124
T-11 Gonçalo Reis Hélder Rodrigues 22 – 124
13 Arnold Brucy Claude Fournier 20 – 126
14 Sergio Lafuente Dania Akeel, Diego Martinez* 15 – 131
15 Sébastien Delaunay Erik van Loon 13 – 133
16 Annie Seel Annett Quandt 11 – 135
17 Lisette Bakker Annett Quandt 9 – 137
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