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W2RC - Al-Attiyah and Baumel secure Sonora Rally win and move well ahead in W2RC series after Loeb and Lurquin retire


Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel took a giant step towards retaining their FIA World Rally-Raid Championship (W2RC) title with victory in the six-day Sonora Rally in northern México.

Once arch title rivals Sébastien Loeb and Fabian Lurquin had retired after the third stage, the Qatari was able to fend off the challenge from Toyota team-mates, Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Timo Gottschalk, to claim victory at the finish in San Luis Rio Colorado by 6min 22sec. He won two of the event’s five stages, picking up valuable bonus points along the way, and now has a 30-point lead over Al-Rajhi in the W2RC Drivers’ Championship.

Al-Attiyah said: “Feeling good. I am happy to win the Sonora Rally. We have an amazing week and a good lead now. This was very important for the championship.”

Loeb and Lurquin topped the Drivers’ and Co-drivers’ Championships at the start of the event and looked set for a useful result after leading at the end of stage two. Despite running out of fuel early in the race and suffering navigational niggles on the first stage, Loeb headed into the Puerto Penasco loop stage with a three-second lead over Al-Attiyah.

But the Frenchman crashed into a ditch after 12 kilometres of the event’s longest special and Lurquin complained of shoulder pain and was evacuated from the stage for medical checks. He was diagnosed with a minor fracture in his right shoulder at the overnight halt and the decision was taken, regrettably, to withdraws the Hunter from the event.

“We were on an off-road track and came to a crest with a very tight left-hand corner,” said Loeb. “There was a big ditch in front that we couldn’t see. I could only see at the last moment when we were jumping into it. We finished in the ditch.”

Al-Rajhi had won round two in Abu Dhabi and moved ahead of Loeb and into second place in the title race in his Overdrive Racing Toyota Hilux. The Saudi won the Prologue and stages three and five and, despite serious brake issues on SS2 that dropped him to fifth, he recovered strongly to finish second behind Al-Attiyah.

Al-Rajhi said: “We are happy with second place after a tough race and a lot of problems. We have problems with the cable for brakes on second stage but Timo (Gottschalk) and the team did a great job. It was a tough fight and we do it well.”

Sebastian Halpern teamed up with fellow Argentinian Bernardo Graue to round off the podium places in his X-raid Mini John Cooper Works Plus. He was second quickest in SS3. Denis Krotov and Konstantin Zhiltsov finished fourth in the second of the German-built team cars.

Following Loeb’s premature demise, Guerlain Chicherit had been pushing hard for second overall and was running quicker than all his rivals through the fourth stage when he was forced to stop after 159km with electrical issues on the second of the Prodrive Hunter BRXs entered by GCK Motorsport.

The Frenchman had already overcome two small navigational errors on SS1, three minutes of speeding penalties and the loss of front-wheel drive in SS2 when the electrical gremlins pushed him out of contention and down to near the foot of the overall classification in 25th place.

Prodrive’s consolation was 11th and 14th-place finishes overall for series debutants Cristian and Marcos Baumgart in their X Rally Motorsport Hunters, but the Brazilians were not registered for W2RC points.

Juan Cruz Yacopini and Daniel Oliveras crewed the third of four Toyotas managed by Overdrive Racing and came home in fifth overall.

China’s Guoyu Zhang teamed up with Spaniard Oriol Mena to finish sixth in the first of two BAIC ORV Team BJ40s on his Méxican debut. Mena said: “I took some Chinese lessons before coming here just to learn a few words. That helps him a little and we improve our communications. It’s nice for him to hear some Chinese words.”

The all-Chinese crew of Yunliang Zi and He Sha were classified in 13th overall and 12th of the registered crews in the second of the BAIC ORV Team cars.

Toyota Gazoo Racing now holds a 68-point lead over the X-raid Mini JCW Rally Team in the Manufacturers’ standings. Baic ORV are seven points further adrift but Bahrain Raid Xtreme slipped to fourth after a disappointing rally.  

T3 win for Mitch Guthrie; Austin Jones leads championship

Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA’s Mitch Guthrie and Kellon Walch guided their MCE-5 T3M to a narrow victory in the FIA T3 category for lightweight prototype vehicles.

A costly navigational error by Sweden’s Mattias Ekström and Emil Bergkvist enabled the Americans to hit the front on the fourth stage and a puncture on the final test for Ekström meant he was not able to catch Guthrie, who won the category by 6min 38sec from his South-Racing Can-Am Team rival.

Guthrie said: “We had a good final stage and we had a good pace and did enough to win. Sonora was awesome. Some of the stages got shortened and it turned into more of a sprint race than we expected. We didn’t have the huge dunes this time. We have done some racing down here before and to be here again, so close to home, is awesome.”

When Cristina Gutiérrez and Juan Pablo Moreno Huete suffered a belt breakage on their Red Bull Can-Am Factory Team on the final stage, Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA’s Austin Jones and Gustavo Gugelmin benefitted to move up a place to third overall. That position change enabled the American and the Brazilian to take a one-point advantage over their team-mates, Seth Quintero and Dennis Zenz, in the W2RC T3 Championship rankings.

Jones said: “It was a really good race and a fun time with a fight with the elements. We came back from P4 to actually get P3. I am really happy about that. I hope that we keep doing this race. It was a lot of fun.”

Gutiérrez eventually finished fourth overall and Chile’s Francisco ‘Chaleco’ Lopez and Juan Pablo Latrach recovered well from wheel issues to finish fifth and maintain their title challenge. Lopez is equal fourth with Gutiérrez in the title standings.

Quintero ripped a wheel off his Can-Am in the opening stage and incurred hefty time penalties as a result and finished down the rankings in 10th place. The American said: “The whole rally didn’t go the best for us but we are looking forward to getting to the next round. We lost this race about 5km into day one. I’ve been playing catch up to try and get some championship points.”

The Portuguese duo of João Ferreira and Filipe Palmeiro had been running as high as second before slipping back to seventh in their X-raid Yamaha YXZ 1000 R, while South Racing Can-Am’s David Zille and Sebastian Cesana won the final stage on their way to eighth. Ferreira’s team-mate Annett Quandt came home in ninth and French veteran Claude Fournier was 11th.

Rokas Baciuška wins every stage in T4

Red Bull Can-Am Factory Team racer Rokas Baciuška and his Spanish navigator Oriol Vidal dominated the T4 category and won every stage on their way to a comfortable victory that leaves both crew members 103 points clear of their nearest rivals in the Drivers’ and Co-drivers’ Championships with two races remaining.

Baciuška said: “Our aim is always P1, so to get it done feels great. It’s been a pleasure to be here. The team has been working hard all week and given me a great car to drive every single day.”

Only four FIA T4 crews made the trip to the Sonora Rally. Once Eduardo Pons and Monica Plaza lost second place and slipped back to finish in an eventual fourth, that paved the way for the FN Speed Team Can-Am’s Rebecca Busi and Sébastien Delaunay to finish second.

Japan’s Shinsuke Umeda teamed up with Argentina’s Facundo Jaton to round off the podium places in their Xtreme Plus Polaris.

2023 Sonora Rally – final results:

1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT/Mathieu Baumel (FRA) Toyota GR DKR Hilux                                    10hr 29min 55sec

2. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Timo Gottschalk (DEU) Toyota Hilux Overdrive                                            10hr 36min 17sec

3. Sebastian Halpern (ARG)/Bernardo Graue (ARG) Mini John Cooper Works Rally Plus                     10hr 44min 13sec

4. Denis Krotov (KGZ)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (ISR) Mini John Cooper Works Rally Plus                           10hr 55min 43sec

5. Juan Cruz Yacopini (ARG)/Daniel Oliveras (ESP) Toyota Hilux Overdrive                                          11hr 01min 30sec

6. Guoyo Zhang (CHN)/Oriol Mena (ESP) Baic ORV BJ40                                                                                        11hr 01min 43sec

7. Mitch Guthrie (USA)/Kellon Walch (USA) MCE-5 T3M (T3)                                                              11hr 17min 24sec

8. Mattias Ekström (SWE)/Emil Bergkvist (SWE) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3)                                         11hr 24min 02sec

9. Austin Jones (USA)/Gustavo Gugelmin (BRA) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3)                                         11hr 28min 10sec

10. Cristina Gutiérrez (ESP)/Juan Pablo Moreno Huete (ESP) Can-Am Factory Maverick X3 (T3)        11hr 30min 02sec

11. Cristian Baumgart (BRA)/Alberto Andreotti (BRA) Prodrive Hunter                                               11hr 42min 21sec*

12. Rokas Baciuška (LTU)/Oriol Vidal (ESP) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo (T4)                                     11hr 51min 05sec

13. Yunglian Zi (CHN)/He Sha (ESP) Baic ORV BJ40                                                                               11hr 54min 03sec

14. Marcos Baumgart (BRA)/Kleber Cincea (BRA) Prodrive Hunter                                                      11hr 55min 11sec*

15. Francisco Lopez (CHL)/Juan Pablo Latrach (CHL) Can-Am Factory Maverick X3                             11hr 58min 54sec

*denotes not registered for W2RC

T1+ unless stated


2023 W2RC Drivers’ Championship – after round 3:

1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)                136pts

2. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)                          106pts

3. Sébastien Loeb (FRA)                            101pts

4. Sebastian Halpern (ARG)                       74pts

5. Juan Cruz Yacopini (ARG)                      69pts, etc


Rally leaders

Prologue                                     Yazeed Al-Rajhi (Toyota)

SS1                                               Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (Toyota)

SS2                                               Sébastien Loeb (Prodrive Hunter)

SS3-SS5                                       Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (Toyota)


Stage winners

Prologue                                     Yazeed Al-Rajhi (Toyota)

SS1                                               Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (Toyota)

SS2                                               Sébastien Loeb (Prodrive Hunter)

SS3                                               Yazeed Al-Rajhi (Toyota)

SS4                                               Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (Toyota)

SS5                                               Yazeed Al-Rajhi (Toyota)


Sonora Rally – FIA T3 result:

1. Mitch Guthrie (USA)/Kellon Walch (USA) MCE-5 T3M                                                                                        11hr 17min 24sec

2. Mattias Ekström (SWE)/Emil Bergkvist (SWE) Can-Am Maverick X3                                                 11hr 24min 02sec

3. Austin Jones (USA)/Gustavo Gugelmin (BRA) Can-Am Maverick X3                                                 11hr 28min 10sec

4. Cristina Gutiérrez (ESP)/Juan Pablo Moreno Huete (ESP) Can-Am Maverick X3                              11hr 30min 02sec

5. Francisco Lopez (CHL)/Juan Pablo Latrach (CHL) Can-Am Maverick X3                                             11hr 58min 54sec


Sonora Rally – FIA T4 result:

1. Rokas Baciuška (LTU)/Oriol Vidal (ESP) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo                                               11hr 51min 05sec

2. Rebecca Busi (ITA)/Sébastien Delaunay (FRA) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo                                                     13hr 50min 16sec

3. Shinsuke Umeda (JPN)/Facundo Jaton (ARG) Polaris RZR Pro R                                                       15hr 38min 43sec

4. Eduardo Pons (ESP)/Monica Plaza (ESP) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo                                             30hr 38min 14sec*

*denotes not registered for W2RC