World Rally-Raid Championship

2024 Desafio Ruta 40: FIA win coming down to the wire after Stage 4

3 Mins read
Credit: Kin Marcin/Red Bull Content Pool

Nasser Al-Attiyah won Stage #4 of the Desafío Ruta 40 over Yazeed Al-Rajhi, but a slight error the previous day could come back to haunt him.

He beat Al-Rajhi by three minutes to claim Thursday’s stage, which ordinarily would have put him ahead by thirty-seven seconds in the overall entering the fifth and final leg on Friday. However, the FIA a one-minute time penalty later in the day after reviewing video from Stage #3 that found his navigator Édouard Boulanger had not fully fastened his seatbelt and HANS device while their Prodrive Hunter was in motion.

Al-Attiyah had stopped after smelling smoke in the cockpit, and Boulanger exited to inspect the matter. Once cleared, he returned to his seat and fastened his belts and HANS device before telling Al-Attiyah to resume driving; however, he spent twenty-seven seconds still tightening his gear when he signalled to continue. Boulanger received a suspended €1,000 fine.

The penalty sank him from second to third for Stage #3, two seconds behind Al-Rajhi. Since it was not finalised until after Stage #4, the unassuming Al-Attiyah proceeded as usual and dominated the 391-kilometre stage, finishing ahead of Al-Rajhi by 3:08; Al-Rajhi also had ten seconds added to his time for speeding. Going into the fifth day, he trails Al-Rajhi by thirteen seconds.

While not a matter of seconds, the battle for the FIM overall victory will also come down to the narrowest of margins. After trading blows throughout the stage, including a one-second split through the final checkpoint with twenty kilometres to go, defending DR 40 bike winner Tosha Schareina barely edged out Honda team-mate Ricky Brabec for the stage win by seven seconds.

“We started out in the stones then got to the sand section, which for me is like home so I was really confident and comfortable in this terrain on the special,” commented Brabec. “Just before the transfer, there was a fast lake bed chott and navigation got tricky there for a moment, but I just stayed calm to navigate through it and get to the transfer. There’s been a back and forth battle between myself and Tosha all day which has been really cool, so this has made the rally really interesting.”

However, Brabec still holds the overall lead by 1:27. Honda riders occupy the top four and are separated by nine minutes, with Adrien Van Beveren and Skyler Howes tailing. Howes had lost some time to a crash in a stage that he compared to the San Felipe 250 “minus the rocks” due to its plethora of sand whoops.

“I tried to push in the first part as Ricky was opening the stage but he was super fast again, so I tried to push again after the refuelling to close the seven second gap,” explained Schareina. “Tomorrow is the final push for the win.”

Romain Dumontier notched his third straight stage win in Rally2, but Bradley Cox remains within breathing distance of seven minutes. On the other hand, the lower Rally3 class is all but wrapped up for John Medina, who inherited the lead after Fernando Hernández suffered a head injury when he crashed and had to retire; Medina is over two hours ahead of Eduardo Alan.

Manuel Andújar, winner of the last three legs, leads Facundo Viel by 40:41 in Quad. Classmate Cooper Van Vliet finished fourth, then was towed by another competitor back to the bivouac after his quad broke down; he noted that many riders had “problems with contaminated fuel” during the day.

After finishing fifth on Wednesday, Rokas Baciuška returned to his winning ways with a convincing Challenger triumph over Nicolás Cavigliasso by 3:28. Cavigliasso needs to make up 9:23 on the final day.

Ricardo Ramilo continues to lead in SSV, but the biggest championship implication comes behind him as Rebecca Busi finished second to overtake Sebastián Guayasamín and move up second overall. Enrico Gaspari, who was right behind Ramilo entering Thursday, retired with a mechanical issue.

Stage #4 winners

Ultimate200Nasser Al-AttiyahNasser Racing3:39:15
Challenger300Rokas BaciuškaCan-Am Factory Team3:54:37
SSV402Ricardo RamiloScuderia Ramilo4:13:17
RallyGP68Tosha SchareinaMonster Energy Honda Rally Team3:37:25
Rally216Romain DumontierTeam Dumontier Racing3:47:59
Rally367John MedinaXraids Experience5:05:33
Quad174Manuel Andújar7240 Team4:11:54
Open Bike603Julian Sanchez Dabin*Max Clean Rally Team5:07:21
Open Cars650Jeremías Gonzalez Ferioli*Ferioli Racing Team4:05:08
* – Not competing in World Rally-Raid Championship

Leaders after Stage #4

Ultimate202Yazeed Al-RajhiOverdrive Racing15:03:41
Challenger300Rokas BaciuškaCan-Am Factory Team16:07:54
SSV402Ricardo RamiloScuderia Ramilo17:33:14
RallyGP9Ricky BrabecMonster Energy Honda Rally Team15:31:35
Rally216Romain DumontierTeam Dumontier Racing16:13:27
Rally367John MedinaXraids Experience20:51:42
Quad174Manuel Andújar7240 Team18:02:07
Open Bike603Julian Sanchez Dabin*Max Clean Rally Team21:20:36
Open Cars650Jeremías Gonzalez Ferioli*Ferioli Racing Team17:43:37
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Justin is not an off-road racer, but he writes about it for The Checkered Flag.
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