Dakar 2022: South Racing's Lopes and Jones win FIA T3 and T4 categories in the gruelling Dakar Rally
South Racing Can-Am Mavericks finish first and second in FIA T3 section
Jones and Farrés give Can-Am Factory South Racing Team a 1-2 finish in T4
Saudi female drivers Akeel and Al-Obaidan reach Jeddah in eighth and 17th
South Racing Can-Ams secured a sensational winning double in both the FIA T3 and T4 categories at the finish of the 44th Dakar Rally in Jeddah.
South Racing-built and run Can-Ams dominated the results in both categories on this opening round of the new FIA World Rally-Raid Championship. They finished first and second in the lightweight T3 section and filled the top six positions in the SSV class for T4 machines.
Francesco ‘Chaleco’ Lopez and navigator Juan Pablo Latrach were the models of consistency throughout the Dakar and the Chileans held their cool to win the FIA T3 category by 51min 28sec, Lopez adding the spoils to the SSV win he earned with South Racing in 2021.
EKS-South Racing Can-Am team-mate Sebastian Eriksson came home in second place with Dutch co-driver Wouter Rosegaar.
Lopez said: “It was a long race. These two weeks went pretty smoothly. It was a completely different scenario compared to last year, when I had to go flat out every day without fail. After stage two, we held a considerable lead, so we just needed to focus on making it to the finish day after day. I’m really happy that our strategy worked out. It was a test of endurance, we had to avoid breakdowns. After all that, victory tastes really sweet.”
Saudi Arabia’s Dania Akeel teamed up with Uruguay’s Sergio Lafuente in one of three Can-Ams run on the event by South Racing Middle East. The talented girl followed up her 2021 FIA T3 world title with a fine eighth overall, with team-mates Tomas Bell and Bruno Jacomy coming home in seventh.
Mashael Al-Obaidan and Jacopo Cerutti brought the third of the South Racing Middle East cars to the finish in 17th.
A mechanical issues cost Fernando Alvarez a potential podium finish on the penultimate stage through the sand dunes around Bisha, but the Spaniard managed to reach Jeddah in 22nd place with French co-driver Xavier Panseri.
American racer Austin Jones overturned a slender deficit to snatch the T4 title from Can-Am Factory South Racing team-mate Gerard Farrés on the final stage. Jones and Brazilian co-driver Gustavo Gugelmin won the event by just 2min 37sec after over 47 hours of racing and 13 days in the Saudi desert.
A delighted Jones said: “Dakar is the ultimate test of off-road racing. Nothing else compares to it. Competing for 14 days, in Saudi Arabia’s diverse terrain, and to live out here, it’s so much harder than you think. Not only is it a test of driving, it’s a mental game. There’s a reason Dakar is considered the toughest race in the world. To be the youngest American to win means a lot. Winning Dakar is everything. It’s everything that you work for. All the training. All the work you put in. This is the most important race. To win the Dakar is the number one goal in rally racing. Having Can-Am, such a large manufacturer that builds the best SSVs in the world, and South Racing supporting and believing in me, it’s been a game changer. To be here and to have them both have my back, I couldn’t have done it without them.”
Lithuania’s young Rokas Baciuska overhauled Marek Goczal to snatch the final podium place in his South Racing Can-Am, leaving Goczal and his brother Michal to confirm fourth and fifth in the two Cobant-Energylandia Rally Team Can-Ams, built and run by South Racing.
Brazilian privateer driver Rodrigo Luppi de Oliveira led T4 at the rest day before technical issues cost him valuable time on the stage after the restart. He and Maykel Justo recovered to finish sixth.
South Racing’s Argentine duo of David Zille and Sebastian Cesana rounded off the top 10 and Can-Am Factory South Racing’s Aron Domzala and Molly Taylor overcame their own delays to finish 12th and 14th, sandwiching 13th-placed Ukrainian Ievgen Kovalevych in his South Racing Can-Am. Chile’s Lucas Del Rio and Americo Aliaga rounded off the South Racing finishers in 35th.
Dutch crew of Gert-Jan van der Valk and Branco de Lange sustained a high-speed roll on the stage after the rest day and were forced to retire with damage to the Can-Am.
South Africa’s Geoff Minnitt and Siegfried Rousseau retired from 47th overall at the rest day in Riyadh after an accident.
South Racing Can-Am Team’s Scott Abraham said: “This was a great Dakar for South Racing and the Can-Am project, taking on the challenge of both the lightweight and SSV categories. ‘Chaleco’ and Juan Pablo did a phenomenal job controlling their race after the OT3s, once again, proved to be unreliable for a third year. Sebastien and Wouter did a superb Dakar as well. He is definitely a young driver to look out for in the future to bring the EKS-South Racing car home in second to make it a 1-2 in T3.
Austin and Gustavo continued the winning ways they had shown in the 2021 FIA World Cup. It was not an easy win at all. Gerard Farrés and Diego Ortego Gil pushed them all the way. Rokas Baciuska and Oriol Mena were very quick on certain stages and their performance on stage 12 today is definitely one for the books. He never gave up, went with a do-or-die attitude and made a huge play. He is also one to look at for the future.
It was also a phenomenal race for Dania Akeel and Mashael Al-Obaidan with the T3 programme. Molly Taylor also finished her first Dakar. It was not an easy Dakar for her.”
Source South Racing Can-Am