SOUTH RACING’S LOPEZ AND JONES WIN FIA T3 AND T4 CATEGORIES AT THE GRUELLING DAKAR RALLY 2022
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.”
Last week: Riyadh to Jeddah - as it happened
The first stage out of Riyadh after the rest day ran for 401.74km to Al Dawadimi and featured around 100km of sand dunes. There were early delays for Eriksson and he ceded an hour to Lopez on in the fight for T3 honours. The Chilean finished the special in fourth and saw his lead grow to 1hr 24min 05sec.
Akeel crashed her Can-Am and was able to repair with the loss of around four hours that pushed her down from sixth to 15th. Al-Obaidan suffered gearbox issues but moved up a place to 18th.
Domzala claimed his second T4 stage win of the campaign, on a demanding special that featured around 100km of sand dunes and some fiendishly tricky navigation. Jones came home in 10th but Luppi de Oliveira dropped 45 minutes to his rival after crashing in the dunes and plummeted from first to fifth.
Jones inherited a lead of 5min 11sec over Michal Goczal, with Farres and Baciuska in third and fourth. Van der Valk suffered a high speed roll in the dunes and was forced to retire with accident damage.
The subsequent stage of 394.90km ran through the southern deserts to Wadi Ad Dawasir, where canyons and tricky navigation were prevalent. Lopez maintained a lead of 1hr 19min 01sec over Eriksson were the fourth quickest time. The Goczal brothers again dominated the T4 stage, although a third fastest time for Jones enabled the American to increase his lead over Farrés to 6min 38sec.
“I didn’t lose any time,” said Lopez. “I broke a part, so it goes to show that anything can happen every day. It was not easy. There were a lot of dunes and stones.”
Stage nine was a 286.96km loop through the deserts around Wadi ad Dawasir. Lopez and Jones extended their respective T3 and T4 advantages to 1hr 19min 51sec and 13min 47sec, respectively, on a fast special where Marek Goczal claimed the T4 win, the Pole beating Jones by just 58 seconds.
A largely sandy special of 374.58km took crews from Wadi ad Dawasir to Bisha, a small town in the south-western Saudi province of ‘Asir.
Lopez suffered a minor scare when we lost 24 minutes of his hard-earned T3 advantage to Eriksson and saw his cushion reduced to 55min 56sec on a stage where the Swede was third and Alvarez arrived in Bisha with the seventh quickest time. Baciuska won the T4 special by 1min 58sec from Domzala, but Jones retained a lead of 11min 54sec over Farrés. Taylor slipped three places to 13th after losing an hour on the stage.
The last of the longer specials was a loop of 345.64km around the Bisha bivouac. Lopez and Eriksson were closely matched on the special and the Chilean took an overall lead of 55min 36sec into the final day. Alvarez lost his place on the podium and slipped to sixth, but Akeel was seventh quickest and climbed to ninth behind Bell.
Marek Goczal won the T4 stage from Farrés and the Spaniard managed to sneak in front of Jones and take a lead of 1min 41sec into the final day. Jones dropped 17 minutes on the special: the American began the special sandwiched between two trucks and then suffered the agony of breaking the front differential in the dunes that forced him to finish the stage in two-wheel drive.
The last stage of 163.57km would determine the podium places. Lopez erred on the side of caution and dropped 4min 08sec to Eriksson but had done enough to win T3 by 51min 28sec.
Baciuska managed to slip in front of Marek Goczal and snatch the final podium place in T4, as electrical issues plagued Farrés and Jones pounced to seal the win.
South Racing Can-Am Team – team anecdotes:
Racing and Liaisons
At the end of stage 12, each driver has completed 8,404 km in their Can-Am Maverick X3s. This was almost the equivalent of driving from New York City to Los Angeles and back.
In the past 14 days, the team has consumed 39,919 litres of gasoline to complete the stages and liaisons (This doesn't include the support vehicles).
Wheels and Tires
Combining daily maintenance and course punctures, the teams have used close to 1,235 Method race wheels and Tensor tyres.
Since the beginning of the race, including the shakedown, South Racing staff consumed 7,680 litres of water, 5,120 espressos, and 5,120 hot meals from our on-site catering service.
2022 Dakar Rally – FIA T3 final standings:
1. Francisco Lopez (CHL)/Juan Pablo Latrach (CHL) EKS-South Racing Can-Am Maverick XRS 45h50'51"
2. Sebastien Eriksson (SWE)/Wouter Rosegaar (NLD) EKS-South Racing Can-Am Maverick XRS 46h42'19"
3. Cristina Gutièrrez (ESP)/François Cazalet (FRA) Overdrive OT3 50h25'34"
4. Santiago Navarro (ESP)/Marc Sola (ESP) Can-Am Maverick X3 51h02'26"
5. Pavel Lebedev (RUS)/Kirill Shubin (RUS) Can-Am Maverick 51h43'05"
6. Camelia Liparoti (ITA)/Xavier Blanco (ESP) Yamaha YXZ 1000 R 54h17'02"
7. Thomas Bell (GBR)/Bruno Jacomy (ITA) South Racing ME Can-Am Maverick XRS 54h25'52"
8. Dania Akeel (SAU)/Sergio Lafuente (URY) South Racing ME Can-Am Maverick XRS 55h50'58"
9. Serge Gounon (FRA)/Pierre-Henri Michel (FRA) Can-Am Maverick XRS 56h50'09"
10. Lionel Costes (FRA)/Christophe Tressens (FRA) PH-Sport Zephyr 57h24'01"
17. Mashael Al-Obaidan (SAU)/Jacopo Cerruti (ITA) South Racing ME Can-Am Maverick XRS 60h30'43"
22. Fernando Alvarez (ESP)/Xavier Panseri (FRA) South Racing Can-Am Maverick XRS 69h03'32"
2022 Dakar Rally – FIA T4 final standings:
1. Austin Jones (USA)/Gustavo Gugelmin (BRA) Can-Am Factory South Racing Maverick XRS 47h22'50"
2. Gerard Farrés (ESP)/Diego Ortega Gil (ESP) Can-Am Factory South Racing Maverick XRS 47h25'27"
3. Rokas Baciuska (LTU)/Oriol Mena (ESP) South Racing Can-Am Maverick XRS 47h38'08"
4. Marek Goczal (POL)/Lukasz Laskawiec (POL) South Racing Can-Am Maverick XRS 47h39'11"
5. Michal Goczal (POL)/Szymon Gospodarczyk (POL) South Racing Can-Am Maverick XRS 47h51'18"
6. Rodrigo Luppi de Oliveira (BRA)/Maykel Justo (BRA) South Racing Can-Am Maverick XRS 48h18'34"
7. Luis Portela Morais (PRT)/David Megre (PRT) Can-Am Maverick XRS 50h43'19"
8. Eric Abel (FRA)/Christian Manez (FRA) Can-Am Maverick XRS 52h45'36"
9. Joan Moreno (ESP)/Miguel Herrera (ESP) Can-Am Maverick XRS 53h20'49"
10. David Zille (ARG)/Sebastian Cesana (ARG) South Racing Can-Am Maverick XRS 53h38'45"
12. Aron Domzala (POL)/Maciej Marton (POL) Can-Am Factory South Racing Maverick XRS 54h35'43"
13. Ievgen Kovalevych (UKR)/Dmytro Tsyro (UKR) South Racing Can-Am Maverick XRS 54h36'13"
14. Molly Taylor (AUS)/Dale Moscatt (AUS) Can-Am Factory South Racing Maverick XRS 55h00'49"
35. Lucas Del Rio (CHL)/Americo Aliaga (CHL) South Racing Can-Am Maverick XRS 85h07'11"