South Racing-Built Can-Ams wun FIA T4 category and finish second, third and fourth in T3 at Desafio Ruta 40 in Argentina

– Local rookies Gustavo Gallego and Eugenio Arrieta prevail in FIA T4 class
– Gutiérrez, Jones and Lopez take second, third and fourth in T3 in South Racing-built cars
– Hernan Garces, Mattias Ekström and David Zille finish fifth, 10th and 12th in T3

South Racing-built Can-Ams won the FIA T4 category and finished second, third and fourth in the T3 class after a punishing six-day Desafío Ruta 40, the fourth round of the 2023 FIA World Rally-Raid Championship (W2RC).

At the finish in Salta in north-west Argentina on Friday evening, the Argentine duo of Gustavo Gallego and Eugenio Arrieta sealed victory in T4 and South Racing-built cars sponsored by Red Bull were classified in second, third and fourth in T3, with Cristina Gutiérrez and Juan Pablo Moreno Huete leading the way in second place and Austin Jones and Gustavo Gugelmin coming home in third.

Gallego said: « This is the goal we set ourselves and we managed to finish in first place. We did things very well, we never stopped and we didn’t get lost. I’m more than happy as it was our first race. It was good to know that we were in the fight. We registered for T4 to see how this first experience was going to be and we were always with our mind set on finishing the race. »

South Racing entered two cars in the T4 class with the Spanish pairing of Eduardo Pons and Jamie Betriu crewing the second Maverick in competition with Gallego and Arrieta. Pons won the Prologue and three of the five demanding selective sections but delays on the third stage pushed the Spaniard down to third in the T4 classification.

The Swedish duo of Mattias Ekström and Emil Bergkvist started as two of the favourites to prevail in the FIA T3 category for lightweight prototype cross-country machines and won the second and fifth stages, but technical issues on stage three cost them a lot of time and the crew played catch up for the remainder of the rally. They reached Salta in 10th place in T3 and seventh of the registered W2RC T3 crews.

Ekström said: « This is now my favourite rally-raid event. The stages have been a mix of everything. From WRC-style tracks to soft sand and duns. It was wet, dry, dusty and everything in-between! »

Hernan Garces and Bruno Jacomy were the highest-placed of the South Racing Can-Ams at the finish. The Chilean veteran was classified fifth in T3, while Argentinean team-mates David Zille and Sebastien Cesana were running strongly and holding a top five position before technical problems hampered their progress on stage four and dropped them to an eventual 12th.

As it happened
Action got underway with a nine-kilometre Prologue stage at La Rioja on Sunday (August 27th) and Ekström shone brightly for the South Racing Can-Am Team, the Swede carding the fifth quickest time overall and the second fastest in T3. Zille and Garces slotted into ninth and 11th in the category, while Pons and Gallego held the top two places in T4.

The opening selective section looped through remote terrain for 334km to the south of La Rioja. Ekström came home in fourth behind Guthrie, Lopez and Quintero, while Zille and Garces were seventh and 10th in T3.

In T4, Pons increased his advantage over team-mate Gallego to 4min 38sec. Ekström had been the quickest on the stage in the T3 race until he collected two flat tyres. Several crews, including Zille, Garces and Pons, has been delayed at the refuelling zone, however, and time was later deducted from their stage as a result.

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. The section of soft sand between km250 and km270 was treacherous and caught out several of the leading T1+ cars.

Ekström took full advantage to set the second fastest overall time behind the Toyota Hilux of Juan Cruz Yacopini and the result lifted the Swede to second in the T3 rankings, 2min 31sec behind Guthrie. Zille came home in fifth on the day. In T4, Pons won by just under 12 minutes from Gallego and increased his advantage to 22min 39sec.

T3 stage winner Ekström said: « We lost a bit of time in the fesh-fesh at the beginning passing a quad but, apart from that, we had a clean stage and enjoyed ourselves a lot. »

The third stage of 266km looped through terrain around the Belén bivouac in the Pie de Médano region to an altitude of over 2,6000 metres and included two small dune sectors, river crossings, fast tracks and some stony terrain. But it spelt problems for Ekström, who had started the special second on the road between two Toyotas but stopped after just 28km. Zille was eighth on the day and slipped to fifth in the general classification, while Garces came home in ninth to hold eighth.

In T4, Pons was badly delayed with technical issues on a stage where Gallego claimed his stage win and snatched the category advantage, with Pons slipping to fourth.

The penultimate stage of 345km was the second to loop around the Belén bivouac. Ferreira claimed the T3 stage win on a day where Garces, Ekström and Zille came home in sixth, eighth and Zille dropped to 12th overall after serious time delays on the stage. Pons recovered strongly from his day three issues to win the stage in T4 by 13min 30sec from category leader and team-mate Gallego.

The final stage of 258km ran between Belén and the finish in Salta and featured off-road sections over sandy surfaces in the Santa María River and then more traditional, fast and flowing WRC-style tracks to an altitude of 2,500 metres. Ekström claimed his second stage of the campaign on a day where Zille finished third and Garces was eighth.

The South Racing Can-Am Team receives valuable support for the race programme from Method Wheels, Tensor Tires, Motul, Jjuan Brake Systems and Sparco.

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

Desafío Ruta 40 – FIA T3 standings
1. Mitch Guthrie (USA)/Kellon Walch (USA) MCE-5 4×4, 16hr 22min 31sec
2. Cristina Gutiérrez (ESP)/Juan Pablo Moreno Huete (ESP) Red Bull Can-Am Maverick X3, 16hr 38min 49sec
3. Austin Jones (USA)/Gustavo Gugelmin (BRA) Red Bull Can-Am Maverick X3, 16hr 50min 14sec
4. Francisco Lopez (CHL)/Juan Pablo Latrach (CHL) Red Bull Can-Am Factory Maverick X3, 16hr 56min 18sec
5. Hernan Garces (CHL)/Bruno Jacomy (ARG) South Racing Can-Am Maverick X3, 17hr 27min 06sec*
6. Juan Carlos Cerda (CHL)/Álvaro León (CHL) BRP Can-Am 4×4 (T3), 18hr 16min 50sec*
7. Nicolas Cavigliasso (ARG)/Valeria Pertegarini (ARG) Taurus T3Max 4×4, 19hr 42min 9sec*
8. João Ferreira (PRT)/Manuel Porem (PRT) Yamaha X-Raid YXZ 1000R Proto, 33hr 25min 49sec
9. Claude Fournier (FRA)/Szymon Gospodarczyk (POL) Can-Am Maverick X3, 35hr 13min 33sec
10. Mattias Ekström (SWE)/Emil Bergkvist (SWE) South Racing Can-Am Maverick X3, 36hr 54min 44sec
11. Seth Quintero (USA)/Dennis Zenz (DEU) Red Bull Can-Am Maverick X3, 37hr 43min 18sec
12. David Zille (ARG)/Sebastien Cesana (ARG) South Racing Can-Am Maverick X3, 37hr 49min 24sec
13. Oscar Santos Peralta ((PRY)/Loutival Roldan (BRA) Can-Am Maverick X3, 39hr 49min 09sec*
14. Gabriel Rodriguez (ARG)/Santiago de la Vega (ARG) Taurus T3Max 4×4, 43hr 30min 58sec*
* denotes not registered for the W2RC

Rally leaders
Prologue : Mitch Guthrie
SS1-SS5 : Mitch Guthrie

Stage winners
Prologue : Mitch Guthrie
SS1 : Mitch Guthrie
SS2 : Mattias Ekström
SS3 : Mitch Guthrie
SS4 : João Ferreira
SS5 : Mattias Ekström

Desafío Ruta 40 – FIA T4 standings
1. Gustavo Gallego (ARG)/Eugenio Arrieta (ARG) South Racing Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR, 18hr 34min 37sec*
2. Enrico Gaspari (ITA)/Ricardo Torlaschi (ARG) Polaris RZR Pro R Sport, 22hr 41min 26sec*
3. Eduardo Pons (ESP)/Jaume Betriu (ESP) South Racing Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR, 38hr 07min 25sec*
4. Shinsuke Umeda (JPN)/Maurizio Dominella (ITA) Polaris RZR Pro R Sport, 41hr 48min 02sec
* denotes not registered for the W2RC

Rally leaders
Prologue : Eduardo Pons
SS1-SS2 : Eduardo Pons
SS3-SS5 : Gustavo Gallego

Stage winners
Prologue : Eduardo Pons
SS1 : Eduardo Pons
SS2 : Eduardo Pons
SS3 : Gustavo Gallego
SS4 : Eduardo Pons
SS5 : Gustavo Gallego

Neil Perkins,