The six-day Desafio Ruta 40 Rally is a grueling 2200-mile race across Argentina that serves as Round 4 of the 2013 FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship. It’s also included in the Dakar Series and thanks to the similarity of terrain and close proximity to the premier rally event, provides teams with a valuable training opportunity ahead of the 2014 Dakar. At the end of this year’s event it was KTM’s Kurt Caselli on the top-step of the podium, earning his first international rally race overall win less than one minute ahead of his teammate and rally regular, Chaleco Lopez. Rally veteran, Marc Coma, rounded out the podium in third.
Stage 1 of the 2013 Desafio Ruta 40 was cancelled due to inclement weather. Stage 2 took riders from San Miguel de Tucuman to San Fernando del Valle de Catamarca, a 215-mile trek that included rough, rocky terrain and mountainous trails. Team HRC’s Helder Rodrigues led the way after the timed portion in Stage 2, beating Coma and Speedbrain’s Paolo Goncalves. Caselli put himself in fifth-place, four minutes adrift of the leader.
Things continued to look well for the Team HRC squad as Rodrigues’ teammate, Javier Pizzolito, proved fastest through Stage 3, earning the first Cross Country Rallies stage win of his career and moving to the top of the overall standings. Riders started in Catamarca and rode through sandy conditions to Belen, and though he sustained a small crash during the 289-mile ride, Pizzolito maintained a strong pace and was ecstatic at his result.
“I am so happy to win today! It’s my first world championship stage victory so it means a lot to me and I’m really pleased to continue the team’s winning streak after Rodrigues’s performance yesterday,” said Pizzolito at the conclusion of Stage 3. “I felt in control throughout the stage and even though I had a small crash, I was still able to win, so perhaps without that the margin would have been even greater.”
Marc Coma overcame a Stage 3 fuel pressure issue to win Stage 4. He finished third overall behind Caselli and Lopez.
At this point in the competition, Lopez was the highest ranked KTM rider in third overall. Caselli had dropped down to sixth and was over 11 minutes behind the leader while Coma was seventh. The two riders lost time after Coma ran into fueling issues a few miles from the refueling station. Caselli stopped to help his teammate, giving him enough gas to cover the distance. Coma later cited fuel pressure problems which were later corrected by his mechanics.
The fix proved effective as Coma was able to make up significant time the next day, coming through as the fastest rider in Stage 4 followed by Caselli in second. The KTM riders’ performance moved them up the overall rankings as well, with Caselli settling into third 1.39 minutes adrift of then leader Helder Rodrigues. Coma jumped to fifth with a 3.17 minute deficit on the Honda pilot.
The KTM team pushed forward again in Stage 5, with Lopez winning the stage and taking the overall lead from Rodrigues. Caselli remained third but was a slight 35 seconds shy of Lopez’s overall time. Coma moved up as well, settling into fourth in the standings.
Caselli, who made his international rally debut at the 2013 Dakar, utilized his Baja and other off-road racing experience to full effect in the sixth and final stage, finishing as the fastest rider in the stage and securing the overall victory.
KTM Team Manager, Alex Doringer was thrilled at the outcome and praised Caselli, Lopez and Coma after the final day of racing in Argentina.
“The team did an amazing job, Marc fought back very hard and I am super pumped about how smart Caselli contested the Rally! With Chaleco on the podium, we see once more that a rally is always decided in the last days and there’s no point in celebrating until our riders are all across the finish line. I’m very happy and we have made a big move toward victory in the World Rally Championship! We again proved who it is that is number one in this sport!”
Desafio Ruta 40 Overall Results 2013:
1. Kurt Caselli (KTM) 18:10.20
2. Chaleco Lopez (KTM) 18:11.03
3. Marc Coma (KTM) 18:21.13
4. Javier Pizzolito (Honda) 18:23.22
5. David Casteu (Yamaha) 18:26.01
6. Paolo Goncalves (Speedbrain) 18:28.06
7. Claudio Rodriguez (Honda) 19:19.14
8. Juan Salvatierra (Speedbrain) 19:23.54
9. Felipe Prohens (Honda) 19:26.50