World Rally-Raid Championship

2023 Desafio Ruta 40: Retirements stack up in Stage 3

3 Mins read
Credit: South Racing Can-Am

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

T1200Nasser Al-AttiyahToyota Gazoo Racing2:54:53
T3302Mitch GuthrieRed Bull Off-Road Junior Team3:13:12
T4403Gustavo Gallego*South Racing Can-Am3:38:50
RallyGP68Tosha Schareina*Honda Team2:58:13
Rally217Michael DochertyBAS World KTM Racing Team3:10:21
Rally3123Mauricio CuevaXraids Experience4:21:49
Quad152Manuel Andújar7240 Team3:40:06
Open Auto650Blas Zapag*Copetrol Rally4:44:38
Open T3670Jeremías Gonzalez Ferioli*Ferioli Racing Team3:23:21
Open T4678Juan José Semino*Xcorpion Rally Racing4:07:33
Open Moto608Marcio Yampa*MEB Belén Rally4:11:01
Open Quad623Santiago Rostan*Pampa Rental Rally Team4:28:03
* – Not competing in World Rally-Raid Championship

Leaders after Stage #3

T1200Nasser Al-AttiyahToyota Gazoo Racing9:38:18
T3302Mitch GuthrieRed Bull Off-Road Junior Team10:13:07
T4403Gustavo Gallego*South Racing Can-Am11:39:12
RallyGP68Tosha Schareina*Honda Team10:20:53
Rally221Bradley CoxBAS World KTM Racing Team11:09:53
Rally3122Ardit KurtajXraids Experience15:03:11
Quad152Manuel Andújar7240 Team12:43:46
Open Auto650Blas Zapag*Copetrol Rally13:43:18
Open T3670Jeremías Gonzalez Ferioli*Ferioli Racing Team11:14:50
Open T4678Juan José Semino*Xcorpion Rally Racing12:47:17
Open Moto600Joaquín Debeljuh*RVM Rally Team13:43:43
Open Quad623Santiago Rostan*Pampa Rental Rally Team16:08:48
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Justin is neither a NASCAR nor off-road racer, but he has covered them for The Checkered Flag since 2018.
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