World Rally-Raid Championship

2024 BP Ultimate Rally-Raid: Rokas Baciuska survives for maiden Challenger win

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Credit: Kin Marcin/Red Bull Content Pool

Rokas Baciuška was the model of consistency at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge when he finished second across four of five stages, but it wasn’t enough to win the Challenger overall. While his BP Ultimate Rally-Raid finishes were more varied, he capitalised on his rivals’ mechanical troubles to score his first career win in the category.

Baciuška only recorded two podium finishes and even ended the race outside the top ten with an eleventh, but a Stage #3 win propelled him to the overall lead that he maintained across the final three days. He finished third in the first stage, but found himself fighting for position as he narrowly beat Paulo Jorge Rodrigues by two seconds to finish tenth in Stage #2.

At the front, Sébastien Loeb and João Dias were the stars of the show to start. Dias, who the reigning FIA European Baja Cup T3 champion, won the opening stage and went on to claim the T3 class overall on the Portuguese Cross Country Championship side.

Loeb, who finished third at the Dakar Rally in the Ultimate class, opted to drop down to Challenger for Portugal as Prodrive is focusing on developing the Dacia programme that will début at the season-ending Rallye du Maroc in October. Although new to the side-by-side class, he immediately made waves in his Taurus by winning Stage #2 and finishing just thirty-five seconds behind FIA overall stage and eventual rally winner Nasser Al-Attiyah.

Stage #3 ended up being their undoing as Loeb’s engine began to overheat while a gas pipe burst in Dias’ Can-Am Maverick. Loeb salvaged another stage win and a third in Stage #5, but finished outside the top ten overall. Dias notched a second in Stage #4 and settled for eighth. Although not the finish he wanted, Loeb described the Taurus as “fun to drive,” echoing sentiment shared by his longtime rival-turned-Prodrive colleague Al-Attiyah when he tested the car last July.

With Loeb and Dias out of the picture, Baciuška and CPTT competitor Armindo Araújo were promoted into the top two positions and separated by seven minutes (one minute was added to Araújo’s time for a penalty). Araújo could not close the gap over the final three legs but managed to hold off Nicolás Cavigliasso for runner-up.

“The rally was kind of different to the others in the World Championship,” said Baciuška. “The stages were very technical so they gave us a different kind of challenge.”

Austin Jones, who beat Baciuška for the Abu Dhabi win, finished sixth, admitting it was “tough to adjust to the wet conditions.” Still, he was glad to leave Portugal with some points towards the championship, though the margin between him and Baciuška has grown from fourteen to thirty-four points.

With Mitch Guthrie absent, Cavigliasso moves past him for third in the standings and five points behind Jones.

Ghislain de Mévius, who lost the European Baja T3 title to Dias on a tiebreaker, endured a slow start to finish third and fifth in Stages #3 and #4; he led much of the latter and initially placed second, but received a five-minute penalty to drop him to his final position. However, the otherwise poor finishes relegated him to twelfth in the end.

Dakar Challenger champion Cristina Gutiérrez retired after crashing into a ditch on the first leg.

Challenger overall results

1300Rokas BaciuškaOriol VidalCan-Am Factory Team10:23:30Leader
2312Armindo Araújo*Pedro RéSantag Racing10:31:14+ 7:44
3302Nicolás CavigliassoValentina PertegariniWevers Sport10:31:52+ 8:22
4305Ricardo PorémLuís MarquesMMP Compétition10:33:10+ 9:40
5313Alexandre Pinto*Bernardo OliveiraAlexandre Pinto10:34:18+ 10:48
6301Austin JonesOriol MenaCan-Am Factory Team10:41:26+ 17:56
7306Mário FrancoJoão SerôdioFranco Sport10:50:25+ 26:55
8311João Dias*João MirandaSantag Racing10:51:03+ 27:33
9319Hélder Rodrigues*Gonçalo ReisHélder Rodrigues10:56:18+ 32:48
10309Hernán Garcés*Juan Pablo LatrachSouth Racing Can-Am11:05:26+ 41:56
11307Sébastien Loeb*Fabian LurquinRed Bull Off-Road Junior Team11:05:45+ 42:15
12310Ghislain de Mévius*Johan JaletGRallyTeam11:16:17+ 52:47
13304Dania AkeelStéphane DupléWevers Sport11:19:32+ 56:02
14326Pedro Gonçalves*Rui FrancoPedro Gonçalves11:33:42+ 1:10:12
15328Nuno Rogério*Pedro SantosNuno Rogério11:38:54+ 1:15:24
16329Marco Pereira*Eurico AdãoSantag Racing12:19:28+ 1:55:58
17322Paulo Jorge Rodrigues*Miguel SalvadorPaulo Jorge Rodrigues12:29:45+ 2:06:15
18303Marcelo GastaldiCarlos SachsBBR Motorsport13:01:53+ 2:38:23
19318William Buller*Daniel JordãoWilliam Buller13:28:08+ 3:04:38
20316Luís Portela Morais*David MegreGRallyTeam23:25:30+ 13:02:00
21327Sérgio Vitorino*André Marçal LopesSérgio Vitorino24:19:32+ 13:56:02
22314Francisco Guedes*Joel LutasFrancisco Guedes25:00:47+ 14:37:17
23325Óscar Ral Verdu*Xavier BlancoBuggy Masters Team25:11:10+ 14:47:40
24331Puck Klaassen*Augusto SanzWevers Sport34:11:05+ 23:47:35
25317Rui Carneiro*Ola FløeneGRallyTeam39:21:00+ 28:57:30
26324Ricardo Sousa*Jorge BrandãoRicardo Sousa44:28:34+ 34:05:04
DNF308Cristina Gutiérrez*Pablo Moreno HueteRed Bull Off-Road Junior TeamDNFN/A
DNF315Miguel Barbosa*Luís RamalhoMiguel BarbosaDNFN/A
DNF320Luís Cidade*Pedro MendonçaSantag RacingDNFN/A
DNF321Jordi Segura*Sergi BrugueFN Speed TeamDNFN/A
DNF323Adroaldo Weisheimer*Albert AndreottiGRallyTeamDNFN/A
DNF330Roberto Rodriguez Gamboa*Herman Rodriguez GamboaRoberto Rodriguez GamboaDNFN/A
* – Not competing in World Rally-Raid Championship

Challenger stage winners

PrologueLuís Portela Morais*3:41.9
Stage #1João Dias*1:15:25
Stage #2Sébastien Loeb*1:47:56
Stage #3Rokas Baciuška3:33:32
Stage #4Sébastien Loeb*2:39:34
Stage #5Nicolás Cavigliasso50:31

W2RC Challenger standings

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

Drivers’ standings

1Rokas Baciuška160Leader
2Austin Jones126– 34
3Nicolás Cavigliasso121– 39
4Marcelo Gastaldi97– 63
5Mitch Guthrie85– 75
T-6Dania Akeel64– 96
T-6Ricardo Porém64– 96
8Mário Franco47– 113
9David Zille19– 141

Co-drivers’ standings

1Oriol Vidal160Leader
2Valentina Pertegarini121– 39
3Carlos Sachs97– 63
4Kellon Walch85– 75
5Oriol Mena78– 82
6Stéphane Duplé64– 96
7Gustavo Gugelmin48– 112
T-8Augusto Sanz32– 128
T-8Luís Marques32– 128
10João Serôdio27– 133
11Daniel Jordão20– 140
12Sebastian Cesana19– 141
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Justin is not an off-road racer, but he writes about it for The Checkered Flag.
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