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Red Bull-backed Can-Am Team’s Seth Quintero and Rokas Baciuska secure T3 and T4 wins at Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge

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Red Bull-backed Can-Am Team's Seth Quintero and Rokas Baciuska secure T3 and T4 wins at Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge

03.03.2023: Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge – February 26th-March 3rd, 2023
2023 FIA World Rally-Raid Championship, round 2
Friday, March 3rd, 2023





• Dakar Rally winners Austin Jones and Gustavo Gugelmin finish second in the T3 class


Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge  – February 26th-March 3rd, 2023     
2023 FIA World Rally-Raid Championship, round 2
Friday, March 3rd, 2023

•    Dakar Rally winners Austin Jones and Gustavo Gugelmin finish second in the T3 class

Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA driver Seth Quintero and Red Bull Can-Am factory Team driver Rokas Baciuška secured a famous double victory in the T3 and T4 categories at the punishing six-day Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge and now lead their respective classes in the 2023 FIA World Rally-Raid Championship (W2RC).

Quintero and German co-driver Dennis Zenz led the T3 category for lightweight prototype vehicles from the start to the finish, setting quickest times on the Prologue and stages one and four on their way to a winning margin of 27min 45sec over their Dakar Rally-winning team-mates Austin Jones and Gustavo Gugelmin. The performance also earned the American a podium finish and third place in the general classification behind two powerful T1 machines.

The result means that Quintero now leads his rival by six points in the W2RC T3 Drivers’ Championship.

Jones said: “It was a nice one this year with lots of dunes and lots of sand. It was not easy out there and we are glad we finished in one piece in P2 in the T3 class. Congratulations to my team-mate for winning and we move on to the next one.”

Red Bull Can-Am Factory Team racer Rokas Baciuška and his Spanish navigator Oriol Vidal led the FIA T4 category from start-to-finish. The Lithuanian won the Prologue and the first and third selective sections to seal victory by 12min 03sec from the Emirati crew of Mansour Al-Helai and Mohammed Al-Hamri. Rokas now leads the W2RC T4 Drivers’ Championship by 48 points.

Cristina Gutiérrez and Pablo Moreno Huete endured a disappointing Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge in their Red Bull Can-Am Factory Racing Maverick. After running out of fuel early in the race, the Spaniards broke a turbo charger on the penultimate stage and the decision was taken not to start the final stage.  

The 2023 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge had been extensively changed by the Emirates Motor Sports Organisation (EMSO), with the start and all pre-event formalities moved from Yas Marina to the ADNOC Energy Business Centre in Abu Dhabi.

From there, the entire event moved west to Al-Dhannah City (formerly known as Al-Ruwais) for the ceremonial start and Prologue, before competitors tackled five revised selective sections in the remote Empty Quarter.

Quintero topped the T3 times and was classified in eighth overall on the seven-kilometre Prologue stage in his Red Bull Can-Am. Gutierrez came home third in the category and in 10th place, while Jones dropped 20 seconds to the leaders and was classified in ninth in T3 and 23rd overall. In T4, Baciuška set the quickest time in his Red Bull Can-Am Factory Team Can-Am and held 12th.

The opening selective section of 242km had been extensively changed as well and ran between a start to the south of Al-Dhannah City and the finish to the west of the Qasr Al-Sarab bivouac, near Liwa, in the Rub Al-Khali.

Quintero maintained his T3 lead with the fastest time. He beat Jones by 7min 48sec after the sporting American and World Championship leader stopped to assist Guttiérez, who ran out of fuel and was towed to the refuelling point. The Spaniard lost over an hour to the leader. Baciuška was again the class of the T4 field and extended his advantage over Pau Navarro by just under four minutes.

The subsequent 257km selective section started to the north of Liwa and headed across valleys and tricky dune ranges, skirting the Shah oilfield and the town of Hameem before heading back to the bivouac at Qasr Al-Sarab. Broken dunes were prevalent and a high sun with the lack of shadows made it even more difficult to see hidden dangers in the sand.

Quintero extended his advantage over Jones by an additional 2min 02sec to 9min 41sec after setting the second quickest T3 time behind Mattias Ekström. Guttiérez came home in sixth after dropping 13min 20sec to the stage winner. Baciuška completed the day’s action behind the local driver Mansour Al-Helai but maintained a 9min 17sec overall lead over Navarro.


Jones said: “We got it done. It was hot and the car was hot. We had to drive accordingly and gave up a bit of time there. It was not a bad day. We were by ourselves most of the day. Pretty boring day, but here we are.”

The third stage looped through the desert and dunes near Qasr Al-Sarab and ran for 265.32km. Guthrie claimed his first win of the event, but the third fastest time for Quintero enabled the American to increase his advantage over Jones to 27min 06sec after the Arizona driver suffered niggling technical issues. Guttiérez moved up to fifth overall with the second quickest time, while Baciuška won the T4 stage and increased his lead to 18min 04sec.

Stage four was scheduled to be the longest of the event but weather conditions dictated that it would be reduced to 173.27km and started two hours later than scheduled.

Quintero came home safety in second place and took a cushion of 28min 49sec over Jones into the final day. Guttiérez dropped over an hour, while Mansour Al-Helai pipped Baciuška to the T4 stage win but the Lithuanian led the category by 14min 50sec heading into the last morning.

The start of that last stage was delayed by 90 minutes because of morning fog. But it failed to stop Quintero and Baciuška from sealing victories in their respective T3 and T4 categories.

The Red Bull cars and the South Racing Can-Am Team received valuable support for the race programme from Method Wheels, Tensor Tires, Motul, Bell, Jjuan Brake Systems, Lazer and OMP.


Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge – FIA T3 standings:

1. Seth Quintero (USA)/Dennis Zenz (DEU) Red Bull Off-Road Junior Can-Am Maverick X3    16hr 58min 31sec

2. Austin Jones (USA)/Gustavo Gugelmin (BRA) Red Bull Off-Road Junior Can-Am Maverick X3    17hr 26min 16sec

3. Hernan Garces (CHL)/Juan Pablo Latrach (CHL) South Racing Can-Am Maverick X3        17hr 54min 59sec*

4. Lionel Baud (FRA)/Lucie Baud (FRA) G Rally Team OT3                    18hr 26min 29sec*

5. Aliyyah Koloc (ARE)/Stéphane Duple (FRA) Buggyra Can-Am DV21                19hr 20min 09sec

* denotes not registered for the W2RC

Rally leaders

Prologue-SS5        Seth Quintero (Can-Am)

Stage winners

Prologue        Seth Quintero (Can-Am)   
SS1            Seth Quintero (Can-Am)
SS2            Mattias Ekström (Can-Am)
SS3            Mitch Guthrie (MCE-5 T3M)
SS4            Seth Quintero (Can-Am)
SS5            Mitch Guthrie (MCE-5 T3M)
    

    
Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge – FIA T4 standings
:

1. Rokas Baciuška (LTU)/Oriol Vidal (ESP) Red Bull Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo        17hr 25min 47sec

2. Mansour Al-Helai (ARE)/Mohammed Al-Hamri (ARE) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo        17hr 37min 50sec*

3. Pau Navarro (ESP)/François Cazalet (FRA) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo             17hr 51min 47sec

4. Abdullah Al-Rawahi (OMN)/Nasser Al-Kuwari (QAT) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo        21hr 39min 07sec*

5. Enrico Gaspari (ITA)/Loic Minaudier (FRA) Polaris RZR Pro R                23hr 09min 46sec*


Rally leaders

Prologue-SS5        Rokas Baciuška (Can-Am)

Stage winners

Prologue        Rokas Baciuška (Can-Am)
SS1            Rokas Baciuška (Can-Am)
SS2            Mansour Al-Helai (Can-Am)       
SS3            Rokas Baciuška (Can-Am)
SS4            Mansour Al-Helai (Can-Am)
SS5            Mansour Al-Helai (Can-Am)
                         

 Neil Perkins, photos Red Bull

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