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Desafio Ruta 40 2023: Al-Attiyah closes in on W2RC Title as Toyotas fill top four places at Argentina's Desafio Ruta 40

Desafio Ruta 40 2023: Al-Attiyah closes in on W2RC Title as Toyotas fill top four places at Argentina's Desafio Ruta 40

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  • Overdrive Racing’s Yacopini and Al-Rajhi finish second and third
  • Toyota Gazoo Racing clinches W2RC Manufacturers’ Championship
  • Eugenio Amos and Denis Krotov reach Salta in fourth and 10th

Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah closed in on his second successive FIA World Rally-Raid Championship (W2RC) title on a gruelling six-day Desafío Ruta 40 where Overdrive Racing-run Toyota Hiluxes filled the top four positions in the general classification.

Despite a series of punctures and broken suspension, Al-Attiyah and co-driver Mathieu Baumel led from the start in La Rioja to the finish in Salta, won the Prologue and four of the five timed selective sections to record a winning margin of 22min 03sec over the Overdrive Racing duo of Argentine Juan-Cruz Yacopini and his Spanish co-driver Daniel Oliveras. Baumel duly clinched a second successive Co-drivers’ title.

Al-Attiyah now has a massive 51-point cushion over Toyota team-mate Yazeed Al-Rajhi in the Drivers’ Championship, while the result means Toyota Gazoo Racing has now clinched the W2RC Manufacturers’ Championship after wins at the Dakar, Sonora Rally and Desafío Ruta 40 for Al-Attiyah and success in Abu Dhabi for Al-Rajhi.

Al-Attiyah’s maiden win was the second for an overseas driver at the Desafío Ruta 40 to follow on from Spaniard Joan Roma’s victory in 2013. He said: “It’s nice to win the race. I’m happy to win. It’s great to be in Argentina again, the stages are spectacular, the organisation did a great job. We don’t feel any different from the last time we raced here with the Dakar.”

Yacopini won his first ever W2RC stage on day three and moved up to third in the Drivers’ Championship after an impressive performance on his home event.

Juan Cruz Yacopini (ARG)/Daniel Oliveras (ESP) Toyota Hilux Overdrive - 2nd Overall

 

Al-Rajhi and Timo Gottschalk rounded off the podium places in the second of the Overdrive Racing Toyotas to retain second place in the Drivers’ and Co-Drivers’ Championships. Punctures also blighted the Saudi’s progress but he pushed Al-Attiyah hard on several stages and may well have finished second had be not lost considerable time on stage two.

Overdrive Racing also ran a Toyota Hilux for the Italian duo of Eugenio Amos and Paolo Ceci, although they were not registered for the W2RC. Amos reached the finish in fourth overall.

Denis Krotov and Konstantin Zhiltsov crewed the last of the Overdrive Racing Toyotas. They lost considerable time after a crash on of the first of the selective sections and spent the rest of the event playing catch up from the rear of the field. They completed the rally in 10th overall.

The competitive action got underway with a short nine-kilometre Prologue stage at La Rioja at the foot of the Velasco Sierras. Al-Attiyah set his stall from the outset, the Qatari beating Toyota team-mate Al-Rajhi by eight seconds. Yacopini, Krotov and Amos were classified seventh, 11th and 13th in the other three Overdrive Racing Hiluxes.

Despite running behind Al-Rajhi in the virtual times, and with rear suspension concerns for much of the opening 334km selective section that looped through terrain to the south of La Rioja, Al-Attiyah beat the Saudi by 1min 06sec to increase his overall advantage after opting to start the stage from fourth on the road.

Yacopini came home in fourth, Amos was ninth and Krotov was 16th after a crash, although Amos had stopped for a short time at the scene of Krotov’s crash after 316km and was later handed 3min 08.9sec back by rally officials.

Al-Rajhi said: “It was a good day. Me and Timo did a great job and also the team. Everything was going well but, 50km before the finish, we had a puncture and we lost 50 seconds. We enjoy the battle with Nasser. We came for that.”

Stage two ran for 340km between La Rioja and Belén and featured fast, winding tracks, the crossing of a great chott, fesh-fesh and an area of large sand dunes. A section of soft sand in a stretch of dunes awaited the cars between km250 and km270 in Catamarca and Al-Attiyah, Al-Rajhi and Yacopini all hit trouble.

Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Timo Gottschalk (DEU) Toyota Hilux Overdrive - 3rd Overall

 

Yacopini lost the least time and the Argentine went on to claim his first ever W2RC stage win by 10min 27sec, the feat all the more satisfying on home soil. Al-Attiyah saw his overall lead shrink to just 17 seconds after breaking the rear suspension and later sustaining five flat tyres with only two spares. Yacopini climbed to second and Al-Rajhi slumped to fourth after collecting four flat tyres himself.

Yacopini said: “I am very happy to win my first stage of the World Championship in Argentina. We had been working hard and knew it was coming. We were very focused because we knew we could overtake several riders and quads and, when we caught up with Nasser, we were happy, because it is not easy to do that.”

Al-Attiyah said: “On the second part of the stage we broke the rear suspension and immediately after that we had two punctures together, front and rear. In total, we had five punctures so we lost a lot of time stopping. I am pleased with how we finished because it was tricky to manage the flat tyres.”

The third stage of 266km looped through terrain around the Belén bivouac and included two small dune sectors, river crossings, fast tracks and some stony terrain in the Pie de Médano region. It was back to business as usual for Al-Attiyah, who finished the stage 1min 41sec quicker than Al-Rajhi and over 10 minutes ahead of Yacopini to increase his lead to 10min 28sec. Al-Rajhi and Amos climbed to third and fourth overall after troubles for Mattias Ekström on the stage that climbed to over 2,600 metres above sea level.

The fourth stage of 345km looped around the Belén bivouac, contained a number of tricky dunes and saw Al-Attiyah and Al-Rajhi locked in a duel for supremacy from the outset. The Qatari edged the win by just 2min 14sec to increase his lead over Yacopini to 15min 42sec, as Toyotas filled five of the top six positions on the day.

The final stage of 258km ran between Belén and the finish in Salta and featured off-road sections over sandy surfaces and then more traditional, fast and flowing WRC-style tracks. Al-Rajhi had Yacopini’s second place in his sights until he dropped time before the 78km checkpoint on a stage where Al-Attiyah was again dominant and collected another haul of bonus points on his way to a first ever victory at the Desafío Ruta 40.

Yacopini held his nerve to finish second with the fifth quickest time on the last stage, while Al-Rajhi and Amos secured third and fourth and Krotov was fourth fastest on his way to 10th overall.

The final round of the FIA World Rally Raid Championship takes place in Morocco on October 12th-18th.

Desafío Ruta 40 – final result (top 10):
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT/Mathieu Baumel (FRA) Toyota GR DKR Hilux 15hr 10min 03sec
2. Juan Cruz Yacopini (ARG)/Daniel Oliveras (ESP) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 15hr 32min 06sec
3. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Timo Gottschalk (DEU) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 15hr 40min 30sec
4. Eugenio Amos (ITA)/Paulo Ceci (ITA) Toyota Hilux Overdrive 16hr 05min 57sec*
5. Mitch Guthrie (USA)/Kellon Walch (USA) MCE-5 4x4 (T3) 16hr 22min 31sec
*denotes not registered for W2RC

T1+ unless stated

2023 W2RC Drivers’ Championship – after round 4 (unofficial):
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT) 189pts
2. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU) 138pts
3. Juan Cruz Yacopini (ARG) 109pts
4. Sébastien Loeb (FRA) 101pts
5. Sebastián Halpern (ARG) 89pts, etc

Source Overdrive Racing

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