Monday, June 24, 2024

2024 Desafio Ruta 40: Yazeed Al-Rajhi holds off Al-Attiyah for Ultimate win

As was the case in 2023, the 2024 World Rally-Raid Championship will come down to the final round between Nasser Al-Attiyah and Yazeed Al-Rajhi. This time, the battle is closer as they left Argentina separated by twenty-five points and Al-Rajhi with momentum after narrowly defeating Al-Attiyah for the Desafío Ruta 40 win.

The defending DR 40 victor, Al-Attiyah’s quest for a third consecutive win seemed to start on a high note when he won the Prologue. However, he quickly faced stiff resistance thereafter as Al-Rajhi led an onslaught of Toyota Hiluxes alongside Toyota Gazoo Racing‘s Lucas Moraes and Seth Quintero. Al-Rajhi claimed the overall lead with his Stage #1 win and never relinquished it despite Al-Attiyah’s best efforts. By the end, Al-Rajhi had just barely beaten him by a mere forty seconds.

A one-minute penalty for Al-Attiyah in Stage #3 may have been the difference maker. His co-driver Édouard Boulanger had undone his seatbelts and HANS device to address the smell of smoke in the cockpit; upon returning to his seat, he signalled to Al-Attiyah to drive again despite not having properly fastened said safety devices. Their Prodrive had driven roughly twenty-seven seconds as Boulanger was tightening everything. The penalty dropped Al-Attiyah from second to third for the stage and left him trailing Al-Rajhi by thirteen seconds entering Stage #5, which he was unable to make up as Al-Rajhi won.

“We finished in second place and that keeps us in a strong position to fight for the championship,” said Al-Attiyah. “We will be racing in the final round in Morocco in October with our new car and the aim is to finish this season as world champions.”

The victory is Al-Rajhi’s first of 2024 and allows him to leapfrog the absent Carlos Sainz for second in the championship. After trailing Al-Attiyah by thirty-three points entering Argentina, the gap is now twenty-five with one round to go.

“Yazeed launched a rocket on the final stretch and gained back the lead. And man, I really had to hold on tight to me seat,” wrote Al-Rajhi’s navigator Timo Gottschalk, who sliced his gap to Boulanger for the co-driver’s championship by more than half from seventy to twenty. “But it was the best in the house: Yazeed was throwing the kitchen sink at it. And maybe even the kitchen itself! It paid off. Could not be any happier!”

Although Moraes and Quintero won stages back to back, neither finished on the podium after a tumultuous rally. Moraes had finished the Prologue without a right-rear wheel before Quintero ended up in a ditch in Stage #1 while trying to avoid spectators too close to the course. Their stage wins put them into the top five, Moraes as high as third, before disaster struck in Stage #4 as dampers broke on both of their Hiluxes. Quintero recovered with a third on the final day but was the last overall finisher in Ultimate.

While slim, Moraes still has a mathematical shot at the title as he trails Al-Attiyah by fifty-three points. However, he will need an exceptional amount of bad luck to strike those in front of him while winning every stage at the season-ending Rallye du Maroc.

“It was a hard, but successful week, which was ultimately decided by one stage,” commented Moraes. “We showed how strong we are across four of the five days, and I’m very proud of what we managed to achieve. We are not just contenders, but future champions.”

The Mini of Sebastián Halpern finished third, meaning each step of the podium consisted of a different manufacturer. Halpern made his return to the W2RC after a dismal 2023 DR 40 that prompted him to skip the Dakar Rally in January, dissatisfied with the Mini’s performance. This time, he rebounded with a best finish of third in Stage #4.

Juan Cruz Yacopini and Marcos Baumgart were the category’s retirements. The former had rolled in both Stages #2 and #3, while Baumgart suffered a mechanical problem on the first leg.

Ultimate overall results

Finish Number Driver Co-Driver Team Time Margin
1 202 Yazeed Al-Rajhi Timo Gottschalk Overdrive Racing 17:38:21 Leader
2 200 Nasser Al-Attiyah Édouard Boulanger Nasser Racing 17:39:01 + 0:40
3 211 Sebastián Halpern Bernardo Graue X-raid Mini JCW Team 18:24:37 + 46:16
4 208 Denis Krotov Konstantin Zhiltsov Overdrive Racing 18:40:50 + 1:02:29
5 203 Lucas Moraes Armand Monleón Toyota Gazoo Racing 18:51:24 + 1:13:03
6 207 Cristian Baumgart Gustavo Gugelmin X Rally Team 19:50:07 + 2:11:46
7 206 Seth Quintero Dennis Zenz Toyota Gazoo Racing 20:03:03 + 2:24:42
DNF 209 Juan Cruz Yacopini Daniel Oliveras Overdrive Racing DNF N/A
DNF 210 Marcos Baumgart Kleber Cincea X Rally Team DNF N/A
* – Not competing in World Rally-Raid Championship

Ultimate stage winners

Stage Driver Time
Prologue Nasser Al-Attiyah 16:17.8
Stage #1 Yazeed Al-Rajhi 3:56:00
Stage #2 Lucas Moraes 4:08:14
Stage #3 Seth Quintero 3:14:00
Stage #4 Nasser Al-Attiyah 3:39:15
Stage #5 Yazeed Al-Rajhi 2:34:40

W2RC standings

Unlike Challenger and SSV, Ultimate does not have its own class-specific trophy and instead has a single championship where drivers from all three points-paying categories are eligible.

For readability, competitors registered for the championship who have not earned points are excluded.

Drivers’ standings

Rank Driver Points Margin
1 Nasser Al-Attiyah 156 Leader
2 Yazeed Al-Rajhi 131 – 25
3 Lucas Moraes 103 – 53
4 Carlos Sainz 100 – 56
5 Guerlain Chicherit 69 – 87
6 Guillaume de Mévius 65 – 91
7 Rokas Baciuška 60 – 96
8 Seth Quintero 55 – 101
9 Denis Krotov 44 – 112
10 Martin Prokop 36 – 120
T-11 João Ferreira 34 – 122
T-11 Cristian Baumgart 34 – 122
13 Austin Jones 33 – 123
14 Mathieu Serradori 32 – 124
15 Sebastián Halpern 24 – 132
16 Nicolás Cavigliasso 23 – 133
17 Saood Variawa 22 – 134
18 Juan Cruz Yacopini 17 – 139
T-19 Yasir Seaidan 16 – 140
T-19 Dania Akeel 16 – 140
21 Mattias Ekström 15 – 141
22 Marcos Baumgart 14 – 142
23 Stéphane Peterhansel 13 – 143
T-24 Mitch Guthrie 11 – 145
T-24 Sebastián Guayasamín 11 – 145
26 Marcelo Gastaldi 10 – 146
T-27 Pau Navarro 9 – 147
T-27 Ricardo Ramilo 9 – 147
T-29 Ricardo Porém 8 – 148
T-29 Rebecca Busi 8 – 148
31 Aliyyah Koloc 6 – 150
32 Mário Franco 5 – 151
T-33 Sara Price 4 – 152
T-33 Eugenio Amos 4 – 152
35 Krzysztof Hołowczyc 3 – 153
36 Claude Fournier 2 – 154
37 Lionel Baud 1 – 155

Co-drivers’ standings

Rank Co-Driver Points Margin
1 Édouard Boulanger 151 Leader
2 Timo Gottschalk 131 – 20
3 Armand Monleón 103 – 48
4 Lucas Cruz 76 – 75
5 Xavier Panseri 65 – 86
6 Alex Winocq 64 – 87
7 Dennis Zenz 55 – 96
8 Konstantin Zhiltsov 44 – 107
9 Oriol Vidal 43 – 108
10 Viktor Chytka 36 – 115
11 Filipe Palmeiro 34 – 117
12 Loïc Minaudier 32 – 119
13 Oriol Mena 26 – 125
14 Gustavo Gugelmin 25 – 126
T-15 Alex Haro 24 – 127
T-15 Bernardo Graue 24 – 127
T-17 Mathieu Baumel 23 – 128
T-17 Valentina Pertegarini 23 – 128
T-17 Sébastien Delaunay 23 – 128
20 François Cazalet 22 – 129
21 Daniel Oliveiras 17 – 134
T-22 Alberto Andreotti 16 – 135
T-22 Stéphane Duplé 16 – 135
24 Emil Bergkvist 15 – 136
25 Kleber Kincea 14 – 137
T-26 Kellon Walch 11 – 140
T-26 Michaël Metge 11 – 140
T-26 Fernando Acosta 11 – 140
29 Carlos Sachs 10 – 141
T-30 Andreas Schulz 9 – 142
T-30 Fausto Mota 9 – 142
T-32 Luís Marques 8 – 143
T-32 Sergio Lafuente 8 – 143
T-34 Adrien Metge 5 – 146
T-34 João Serôdio 5 – 146
T-36 Paolo Ceci 4 – 147
T-36 Jeremy Gray 4 – 147
38 Łukasz Kurzeja 3 – 148
39 Serge Gounon 2 – 149
40 Lucie Baud 1 – 150

Manufacturers’ standings

Rank Manufacturer Points Margin
1 Toyota 190 Leader
2 Prodrive 160 – 30
3 Mini 97 – 93
4 Audi 76 – 114
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