dakar desert wings

Desafío Ruta 40 makes rapid progress on world famous rally tracks in Argentina

Echoes of previous editions of the Dakar Rally have been ringing out loudly across the opening days of the latest Desafío Ruta 40. As the World Rally-Raid Championship convoy plotted a route through the Argentinian province of Cordoba they have battled against each other as well as mountainous altitude, reduced visibility and winding tracks. With the first 500km of the rally now complete, let’s take a look at how things stand…

It’s been a joyous return to racing in front of wild Argentinian fans for five-time Dakar winner Nasser Al-Attiyah. The reigning Desafío Ruta 40 champion laid down an early marker by winning this year’s Prologue Stage in his Prodrive Hunter. The Qatari followed up his Prologue victory with second place on Stage One. If things go Al-Attiyah’s way in Argentina he could secure his third W2RC Ultimate title with one round to spare. Al-Attiyah and co-driver Édouard Boulanger are currently just 2m20s off the overall leader Yazeed Al Rajhi.

“Stage One was not easy and you could lose a lot of time. Now we know what we need to do for tomorrow and we will have a good road position to help us do it.” – Nasser Al-Attiyah

There was drama on the Prologue for Lucas Moraes and co-driver Armand Monleón as the right rear wheel came off their Toyota GR DKR Hilux just 3km into the El Cóndor–Copina track. This misfortune meant Moraes started Stage One back in 28th place, but during the 381km timed special stage the Brazilian tore through the pack to put himself in third overall.

“We were passing so many guys and there was a lot of dust so there were times when we had to be patient. I was a little bit surprised we finished with the third place, but also very happy.” – Lucas Moraes

Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Seth Quintero is aiming for his second podium finish of the season in Argentina to add to his third place result at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge earlier in the year. Quintero and co-driver Dennis Zenz are still within touch of the overall podium despite a tricky Stage One. The duo are just over 20 minutes off third place with four stages left to race in Argentina.

Rokas Baciuška is clearly a man on a mission in Argentina as he looks to wrap up the Challenger class W2RC title as quickly as he can. Setting the fastest time in his category in both the Prologue and Stage One have seen Baciuška build a cushion of over four minutes at the front of the Challenger race. Now the Lithuanian and co-driver Sébastien Delaunay must dig deep to keep their Can-Am in the lead for the four days still to come.

“It was a long stage, almost 400km and tomorrow is also long. We want to keep this good pace we have found.” – Rokas Baciuška

Among the chasing pack putting pressure on Baciuška is Dania Akeel. The Saudi Arabian driver has kept her Taurus T3 Max on the early pace and is just nine seconds off the overall podium following Stage One. The pre-rally aim of Akeel and co-driver Stéphane Dupre was to get near the front of the timesheets on every stage of this Desafío Ruta 40.

“We had a good time on a really stunning stage. I made a few mistakes but none of them came with huge consequences.” – Dania Akeel

Two-time Dakar bike race winner Sam Sunderland has built himself a strong platform for the remaining four stages in Argentina. The Red Bull GasGas Factory Racing rider is well placed to attack the early leaders as the rally leaves Cordoba and arrives in San Juan after finishing eighth on Stage One.

“I gave it my all today and ended up losing about six minutes which is not ideal, but opening a stage of nearly 400km you kind of have to accept the way things are.” – Sam Sunderland

Sunderland’s GasGas team-mate Daniel Sanders is also using this Desafío Ruta 40 as part of his own recovery from recent injuries. Australian rider Sanders joins Sunderland inside the Top 10 after two days of racing in Argentina.

“I never felt too comfortable today unfortunately so I was happy just to survive. The road was very slippery and we had so many turns.” – Daniel Sanders

Local favourite Luciano Benavides saw his latest Desafío Ruta 40 ride come to a premature end on Stage One. A crash 258km into the special resulted in a hip injury for Benavides and he was airlifted out of the stage. We wish Luciano a speedy recovery and hope to see him back on his bike soon.

Tomorrow’s Stage Two at Desafío Ruta 40 sees the rally leave Cordoba and head into the province of San Juan. With over 1,500km still to be raced until the finish line arrives on Friday, June 7 there’s still plenty of twists and turns before the chequered flag flies in Argentina.

Desafío Ruta 40 – Ultimate Class – Top 3
Y. AL RAJHI (SAU) TOYOTA 03:56:00
N. AL-ATTIYAH (QAT) PRODRIVE +02:20
L. MORAES (BRA) TOYOTA +05:51

Desafío Ruta 40 – Challenger Class – Top 3
R. BACIUSKA (LTU) CAN-AM 04:08:11
N. CAVIGLIASSO (ARG) TAURUS +04:12
M. GASTALDI (BRA) TAURUS +09:08

Desafío Ruta 40 – Bike Class – Top 3
T. SCHAREINA (ESP) HONDA 04:16:23
R. BRABEC (USA) HONDA +00:01
A. VAN BEVEREN (FRA) HONDA +01:29

QUOTES

Nasser Al-Attiyah: “Stage One was not easy and you could lose a lot of time. I was not totally sure we had the setup of the car completely correct today so we decided to just survive and finish the stage without any problems. Now we know what we need to do for tomorrow and we will have a good road position to help us do it.”

Lucas Moraes: “After a tough Prologue we want to bring ourselves back to the Top 10. Then when we started Stage One we started to feel good and my co-driver Armand (Monleón) did a great job. We were passing so many guys and there was a lot of dust so there were times when we had to be patient. I was a little bit surprised we finished with the third place, but also very happy.”

Rokas Baciuška: “It was a nice stage, the first part was really fast. After the refuelling there were so many corners so that slowed things down for everybody. It was a long stage, almost 400km and tomorrow is also long. We want to keep this good pace we have found.”

Dania Akeel: “We had a good time on a really stunning stage. I made a few mistakes but none of them came with huge consequences. Once or twice I missed the right line for a turn, but each time we managed to save it.”

Sam Sunderland: “Obviously opening the special is always a bit more of a challenge, but I was happy and excited to get into it this morning. I gave it my all today and ended up losing about six minutes which is not ideal, but opening a stage of nearly 400km you kind of have to accept the way things are.”

Daniel Sanders: “I never felt too comfortable today unfortunately so I was happy just to survive. The road was very slippery and we had so many turns. Once the turns had worn the tyres down the tracks only got more slippery so we ended up just cruising along at the end. I think that’s one of the longest stages we’ll have this week so good to get it done.”