dakar desert wings

Desafío Ruta 40 brings Dakar heroes back for battle on South American terrain

The best rally-raiders on the planet are in South America for the 12th edition of Desafío Ruta 40. Leading the charge for victory in the Argentinian provinces of Córdoba, San Juan and La Rioja are multiple Dakar winners. The Desafío Ruta 40 starts on Sunday, June 2 and takes the convoy on a 3,000-kilometre adventure before the chequered flag flies on Friday, June 7.

Nasser Al-Attiyah’s victories at this season’s Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge and BP Ultimate Rally-Raid Portugal have put him on course for a third consecutive World Rally-Raid Championship (W2RC) title. The five-time Dakar winning driver brings his Prodrive Hunter to Argentina to race alongside navigator Édouard Boulanger.

“Argentina has a very, very special place in my heart. My first Dakar win was in Argentina in 2011. Since then I’ve been back to Argentina and won a lot of races there. To have so much support from so many fans in Argentina feels so nice.” – Nasser Al-Attiyah

Al-Attiyah knows all about the fesh-fesh found in the deserts of Argentina from his time spent racing the Dakar in South America. That’s not the case for members of the W2RC’s new generation of drivers such as Toyota Gazoo Racing team-mates Lucas Moraes and Seth Quintero.

Moraes is making the trip from his native Brazil to race the Desafío Ruta 40 in Argentina. The Brazilian is currently fourth in the overall W2RC driving rankings, just three points back from Yazeed Al Rajhi in third. Moraes will be going all out in Argentina to reach the podium places as he races his Toyota GR DKR Hilux alongside co-driver Armand Monleón.

“This is my first time doing the whole World Championship, last year I only did the Dakar and the rest of the year I stayed home in Brazil. This year started with a lot of travelling and it’s really nice to now have this rally in Argentina because it’s closer to home than the rest of the championship.” – Lucas Moraes

Quintero has his foot firmly on the accelerator during his first season behind the wheel in the W2RC’s Ultimate class. A podium finish at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge at Round 2 underlined the enormous potential the 21-year-old has. The Californian and his co-driver Dennis Zenz will look to have their own Toyota GR DKR Hilux fighting at the front all week in Argentina.

“Argentina’s coming up and I’m stoked to see all the fans out there, let’s get it! It’s been too long since I’ve been out with the Toyota Gazoo Racing crew.” – Seth Quintero

A second consecutive W2RC title is coming into view for Lithuanian driver Rokas Baciuška. The 24-year-old won the T4 division in 2023 and now leads the W2RC’s Challenger class with just two stops remaining this season. Another dominant display at Desafío Ruta 40 could even see Baciuška wrap up the title before October’s season finale in Morocco. Baciuška arrives in Argentina with his Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo and co-driver Sébastien Delaunay.

Looking to push Baciuška all the way in the always competitive Challenger class will be Dania Akeel. The Saudi Arabian will be behind the wheel of her Taurus T3 Max with Stéphane Dupre reading the pacenotes.

“My aim for this rally is to challenge for the win on every stage. If I can do that then my overall place will also be good. I know this rally will be a tough challenge and I can’t wait to get started.” – Dania Akeel

Husqvarna biker Luciano Benavides secured an emotional home win at last year’s Desafío Ruta 40 on his way to claiming the W2RC biker’s title. The younger Benavides brother returns this week to defend his Desafío Ruta 40 crown.

“I feel good on the bike and my physical fitness is at a good level. I’m very motivated for the Desafío Ruta 40, it means a lot to me because it’s my home race.” – Luciano Benavides

Luciano Benavides will have stiff competition from the Honda and Hero squads as well as GasGas riders Sam Sunderland and Daniel Sanders. Two-time Dakar winner Sunderland and his Australian team-mate Sanders are both heading to Argentina as part of their mission to arrive at the 2025 Dakar in the best possible condition.

“I’m excited to have the adrenaline pumping again and being back in a racing environment with the team.” – Daniel Sanders

The racing gets underway at the latest edition of Desafío Ruta 40 with a 16-kilometre prologue stage on the outskirts of the city of Cordoba on Sunday, June 2. Then it’s off through the provinces of Córdoba, San Juan and La Rioja for five special stages measuring a total of 1,776 kilometres. There will be gravel tracks made famous by the WRC’s time in Cordoba as well as sandy sections including fesh-fesh traps. The finish line waits for the convoy back in Cordoba on Friday, June 7.

W2RC driver rankings – Top 3 – Ultimate class
N. AL-ATTIYAH (QAT) 112 points
C. SAINZ (ESP) 100 points
Y. AL RAJHI (SAU) 79 points

W2RC driver rankings – Top 3 – Challenger class
R. BACIUSKA (LTU) 160 points
A. JONES (USA) 126 points
N. CAVIGLIASSO (ARG) 121 points

Quotes:

Nasser Al-Attiyah: “Argentina has a very, very special place in my heart. My first Dakar win was in Argentina in 2011. Since then I’ve been back to Argentina and won a lot of races there. To have so much support from so many fans in Argentina feels so nice.”

Seth Quintero: “Argentina’s coming up and I’m stoked to see all the fans out there, let’s get it! It’s been too long since I’ve been out with the Toyota Gazoo Racing crew.”

Lucas Moraes: “This is my first time doing the whole World Championship, last year I only did the Dakar and the rest of the year I stayed home in Brazil. This year started with a lot of travelling and it’s really nice to now have this rally in Argentina because it’s closer to home than the rest of the championship.”

Dania Akeel: “My aim for this rally is to challenge for the win on every stage. If I can do that then my overall place will also be good. I know this rally will be a tough challenge and I can’t wait to get started.”

Luciano Benavides: “I feel good on the bike and my physical fitness is at a good level. I’m very motivated for the Desafío Ruta 40, it means a lot to me because it’s my home race.”

Sam Sunderland: “I’m feeling really good for Argentina! The team have been working hard on a new setup and finding improvements wherever possible. Our testing has been really positive and it’s looking good for the race. I’ve been training a lot myself and I feel physically strong after a lot of cycling and motocross which I’ve enjoyed, so I can’t wait to get back to racing. I’m looking forward to getting into race mode again and I think we can bring home a good result in Argentina!”

Daniel Sanders: “I haven’t been to Argentina since 2014 for the ISDE, so I can’t wait to go back. My goals for the race are really to see where we’re at after I’ve spent so much time getting stronger and healthier. I’m excited to have the adrenaline pumping again and being back in a racing environment with the team.”