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Parnelli Jones, 1933–2024

Parnelli Jones, who enjoyed success in virtually everything he raced from pavement to off-road, has passed away at the of 90. His son P.J. Jones explained Tuesday that he had been battling Parkinson’s disease “for the last few years.”

Jones is most famous for winning the 1963 Indianapolis 500, his third of seven attempts from 1961 to 1967. He was an open-wheel regular in USAC during the 1960s which he balanced with select starts in the NASCAR Grand National Series (now Cup Series), where he won four times, and the Pacific Coast Late Model Series that has since become the ARCA Menards Series West.

Bill Stroppe, who built his USAC and NASCAR cars, also designed his Mercury with which he won the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in 1963. At the turn of the decade, Stroppe challenged Jones to try out off-road racing, entering the NORRA Mexican 1000 in 1968. Stroppe later built a Ford Bronco nicknamed “Big Oly”, with which Jones won the Mexican 1000 in 1970, the Baja 500 in 1970 and 1973, and back-to-back Baja 1000s in 1971 and 1972. Jones and Stroppe also won the 1973 Mint 400. Fellow Indy 500 champion Rick Mears and off-road great Walker Evans also raced alongside Jones in the desert.

After ending his driving career, he remained involved as a team owner. Vel’s Parnelli Jones Racing won the Indy 500 with Al Unser in 1970 and 1971 and three consecutive USAC titles courtesy of Unser and Joe Leonard from 1970 to 1972, while the great Mario Andretti raced for Jones in Formula One from 1974 to 1976. The team’s Class 8 Chevrolet truck also claimed the 1976 SCORE International truck championship and class wins at the Baja 500 and 1000. Chevrolet also enlisted Jones with building the BFG Blazer, which went on to race with Scoop Vessels and Bob Gordon.

He has been inducted into over twenty halls of fame including the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, National Motorsports Hall of Fame, and Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame.

2024 Desafio Ruta 40: Speeding penalties galore in Stage 2

Adrien Van Beveren went fast to win Stage #2 of the Desafío Ruta 40, but he and many others perhaps went a bit too fast.

Van Beveren battled with Sebastian Bühler for much of Tuesday’s stage, being separated by as little as one second as they ran through the first 325 kilometres. The former’s Monster Energy Honda team-mates Skyler Howes and Pablo Quintanilla had monster runs (pun intended; both Honda and Bühler’s team Hero MotoSports are sponsored by the energy drink) in the final 100 that propelled them past Bühler while Van Beveren built plenty of distance to pull away.

By the end, however, Quintanilla and Van Beveren both received speeding penalties. Quintanilla had seven minutes tacked onto his time, relegating him from third to eighth while Van Beveren was penalised 1:20, which was trimmed down to a twenty-second penalty and allowed him to keep the win over Howes. Bühler’s Hero colleague Ross Branch was also busted for speeding and got a minute.

“We started off on fast pistes which were very slippery,” Bühler explained after finishing third. “Managing the tyre condition while riding extremely fast was dangerous, but also fun at the same time. After refuelling I lost a bit of time, but overall I’m happy with the result and enjoy a good starting position for tomorrow.”

Twenty speeding penalties were handed out amongst the FIM categories, the victims including all but four of the fifteen Quad riders. Manuel Andújar celebrated his 28th birthday on Tuesday with the category’s stage win, though among his presents was a two-minute penalty. His fellow podium finishers Juan Carlos Carignani and Kamil Wiśniewski respectively got one minute and twenty seconds for speeding, while Mariano Viel lost third place to a six-minute addition that dropped him to fifth. Viel’s brother Facundo Viel (fourth), Cooper Van Vliet (sixth), Leonardo Martinez Saucedo (tenth), and Wilson Fabian Cerón Ochoa (fifteenth) escaped the stage without punishment.

2024 Desafio Ruta 40: Luciano Benavides suffers partial femur fracture

The past month has been anything but kind to the Benavides brothers.

Just three weeks after his older brother Kevin Benavides sustained a broken arm and head injuries in a training accident that forced him to miss the Desafío Ruta 40, Luciano Benavides suffered a fracture to the top of his right femur when he crashed in Stage #1 of said race.

Benavides fell off his bike 258 kilometres into the opening stage on Monday, having been hanging around the top five prior to the accident. He finished fifth in the Prologue the day prior. After requesting a helicopter airlift for hip pain, he was taken to hospital in Córdoba where he was diagnosed with the femur fracture.

He has been taken to another hospital in Salta for further evaluation, including whether he will undergo surgery.

The DR 40, the Argentine’s home race, was his second start of the 2024 World Rally-Raid Championship after finishing seventh in the season-opening Dakar Rally. Benavides won the 2023 championship but is not defending his title amidst a downscaled schedule for Husqvarna Factory Racing. He finished second in the 2023 DR 40, but earned max points towards his title run as the highest placing W2RC rider (winner Tosha Schareina was not registered for points).

2024 Desafio Ruta 40: Hondas roll as others fall in Stage 1

Luciano Benavides entered his home country’s Desafío Ruta 40 hoping to build upon being the highest finishing points-earning rider in the 2023 edition. He ended up leaving in a helicopter in the first stage.

After finishing fifth in the Prologue on Sunday, the reigning World Rally-Raid Champion‘s race came to an abrupt end when he fell 258 kilometres into Stage #1 and hurt his hip. It was a disappointing conclusion after finishing second in 2023 en route to the title and in his first start since the Dakar Rally in January. His brother Kevin had to withdraw beforehand due to injuries sustained in a training crash in May.

Benavides was not the only FIM contender with issues. Hani Al-Noumesi had a mechanical flareup that forced him to retire from the stage, dealing a major blow to his Quad championship hopes; he was third in points and the only rider at Argentina with a mathematical shot at the title besides leader Manuel Andújar, who is ahead of Al-Noumesi by seventeen. Andújar, last year’s Quad DR 40 winner, can clinch the championship a round early (he will not race the season-ending Rallye du Maroc) if he wins while Al-Noumesi fails to podium. Rally2 rider Konrad Dąbrowski, fourth in his class standings, exited with a bike issue.

Championship implications were also affected in SSV, where points leader Yasir Seaidan was forced to retire with a mechanical issue after 300 kilometres. Sebastián Guayasamín, who trailed Seaidan by thirty-seven entering the DR 40, won the leg and is in prime position to seize the top spot if he stays out of trouble the rest of the rally. Although winning the race only nets thirty points, each stage victory adds five more. Further aiding Guayasamín in the overall was a 5:14 deduction from his time for assisting the overturned Challenger of Juan Carlos Cerda at KM 226; fellow SSV driver Ricardo Ramilo got 5:43 slashed after having to stop and wait for the accident scene to be cleared from his path.

FIA Prologue winner Nasser Al-Attiyah battled with Yazeed Al-Rajhi throughout Monday’s stage, but the latter won out after finding his last wind in the last 100 kilometres to beat him by two minutes; Al-Attiyah also received a twenty-second speeding penalty to further increase the gap to 2:20. Lucas Moraes rebounded from finishing Sunday with just three wheels to taking the third step on the podium.

Guy Dreumont, 1936–2024

Guy Dreumont, who helped aid injured riders and drivers during the Dakar Rally’s infancy, died on 31 May at the age of 88.

An anesthetist with the Greater Paris University Hospitals system in the 1970s, Dreumont wanted to get involved in racing after noticing a lack of medical support for injured competitors during races he watched on televison. In 1977, he attended the Rallye Côte d’Ivoire–Cote d’Azur rally raid, flying a chartered plane to rescue downed competitors. He founded Assistance Médicale Sports Auto-Moto (AMSAM) upon returning from the event to provide emergency services, including a team of anesthetists and anesthesiologists. Among AMSAM’s clients are races such as the Enduropale de Touquet, Formula One, boat racing, and even non-motorsport like the Tour de France.

In 1979, AMSAM brought a fleet of six vehicles to the inaugural Paris–Dakar Rally to provide assistance. Dreumont and Serge Rafal shared a Peugeot 504 Break, one of four two-wheel-drive 504s used by the team, while they also had a Toyota BJ40 and a Renault 12 Break. Their 504 was nicknamed the “flying ambulance” by future three-time Dakar winner René Metge, who occasionally piloted it on request of race creator Thierry Sabine. All vehicles regardless of their goal are classified in the rankings, meaning medical and support cars are listed in the final results alongside competitors, with Dreumont officially being listed as a retirement.

Dreumont continued his role as AMSAM’s leader at the 1980 and 1981 Dakars in a Citroën Méhari and Lada Niva. While he stopped afterwards, he and his wife Evy remained in Africa and set up a business for tourists visiting Morocco in 1988, which they ran for two decades.

He is survived by Evy and their children Eric, Sophie, Emmanuel, and Sarah.

Ocon to Depart Alpine at the End of 2024

Esteban Ocon will leave BWT Alpine F1 Team at the end of the 2024 FIA Formula 1 World Championship season.

The Frenchman has been with the team since 2020 and won his maiden race with the team at the 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix. The announcement comes after an incident at the 2024 Monaco Grand Prix, where he almost came together with his teammate and ended the team’s chance of scoring just a second point of the season. Rumours had been circulating that he may miss out on the 2024 Canadian Grand Prix, but he has since debunked those rumours.

It is unknown whether the exit is down to the incident in Monaco and it’s unlikely the exact reason for the departure will ever be revealed by the team.The 27-year-old will have plenty of options in 2025, with a number of seats open and available, including a potential seat at MoneyGram Haas F1 Team, which could be a likely destination for Ocon.

“It’s been a significant period of my life to be racing at this team in Formula 1. While I’ve been here for five years as a full-time racing driver, my professional career started at Enstone back when I was a teenager, so it will always be a special place for me.” Said Esteban Ocon following the announcement “We have had some great moments together, some tough moments as well, and I am certainly grateful to everyone at the team for these memorable times. I will announce my plans very soon but, in the meantime, my full focus is on delivering on track for this team and having a successful remainder of the season.”

Team principal Bruno Famin added: “We would like to firstly thank Esteban for his commitment to the team for the past five years. During his time, we have celebrated some fantastic moments together, the best of which coming at the 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix with a memorable race win. We still have 16 races to complete in 2024 together with a clear objective: to continue to work tirelessly as a team to push for the best on-track results. We wish Esteban the very best for the next chapter of his driving career when that moment comes.”

2024 Baja 500: Team Australia finally victorious

After two and a half agonising years, Toby Price and Paul Weel can finally call themselves SCORE International race winners.

The #46 Team Australia Trophy Truck had struggled with abysmal luck since its début in 2022 that overshadowed its strong pace, being the fastest qualifier thrice but only finishing two of seven races entering Saturday’s Baja 500. At the season-opening San Felipe 250 in April, Price was battling for the win until the control arm broke.

After starting on the pole again, Price and Weel finally got the monkey off their back as they beat Tavo Vildósola for the overall win by seven minutes. Vildósola had taken the lead through the first 100 miles before losing it to Price. As Weel took over for the rest of the race, Vildósola was left to scrap with Christopher Polvoorde and Bryce Menzies. Polvoorde easily held off Menzies, the latter the defending Baja 500 winner, for the final spot on the podium after Menzies struggled with mechanical issues.

“It’s been hard. The last twelve months have been hard,” an emotional Weel described at the finish.

Like in April, Cayden MacCachren won both his class and the UTV overall in a 1–2 finish for Polaris ahead of Branden Sims. The Can-Am of Mitchell Alsup averted a Polaris podium sweep as he beat Polaris Factory Racing boss Craig Scanlon by twenty-one minutes. Short course stars and brothers Ronnie and RJ Anderson led early but finished sixth due to a broken radius rod at the 200-mile mark; the 500 was the former’s first desert race since claiming his maiden victory in the discipline at the Mint 400 in March.

2024 Desafio Ruta 40: Foggy Prologue runs through Traslasierra mountains

The seventeen-kilometre El Cóndor to Copina was one of the most famous stages of the World Rally Championship during the Rally Argentina’s existence. Although the event has not been held since 2020, the gravel stage was revived for a slightly different form of rally Sunday when the World Rally-Raid Championship took to the Traslasierra for the Desafío Ruta 40‘s Prologue.

Nasser Al-Attiyah, no stranger to El Cóndor as a WRC alumnus, set a time of 16:17 in his Prodrive Hunter, three seconds faster than in his Ford Fiesta at the 2014 Rally Argentina. The W2RC points leader smashed the stage with over twenty-two seconds on Ultimate runner-up Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Challenger leader Rokas Baciuška, who set identical times.

The mountains were covered in fog Sunday, making it difficult for bike riders as they had to navigate an already tricky and technical course. Defending winner Tosha Schareina described the start of the stage as “super scary for everybody” due to the weather. Cooper Van Vliet had a harrowing experience when his quad slid off course after his brakes could not slow him down, resulting in damage that forced him to complete the stage in first gear.

Some riders like Ricky Brabec opted to remove their goggles despite the dangers posed, a move that helped him out as he finished second behind Schareina.

“It was good to be back despite the poor visibility and cold weather, two of my least favourite things, but we managed to do pretty well,” said Brabec, who was running his first W2RC event since winning the Dakar Rally in January. “I took my goggles off right at the start and it felt like crying for seventeen kilometres as the moisture, air, and fog were making my eyeballs all wet.”

Wei Han, Neels Theric dominate 2024 Taklimakan Rally

Even with their reorganisation over the spring, Kove Moto was not going to miss a beat when the 2024 Taklimakan Rally rolled around. Neels Theric and Deng Liansong, the remaining members of the factory team, won nearly all of the nine bike stages with the former claiming six en route to his first career rally raid win.

Theric, a factory rider for Kove since 2023 who has competed in the World Rally-Raid Championship, set the tone early by winning three of the first four stages (Stage #2 was cancelled for bikes after many competitors struggled on the first day) before Liansong had his time in the spotlight. The victory is the first in an major rally for Kove, whose CEO Zhang Xue departed in March and prompted a restructuring of the company; five riders raced a Kove 450 Rally, with Theric and Liansong on the new 450 Rally EX.

Off-road legend Robby Gordon and his son Max Gordon returned to China to compete in the T3 class with their burgeoning SPEED UTV brand. Max was the fastest in the Prologue and ran top ten in the category before rolling into a ditch in Stage #9. 2023 T1.2 winner Tao Pengfei pulled him out and he was unharmed, though his race was rendered null. The elder Gordon finished ninth in T3.

“The Taklimakan is very similar to a Dakar,” said Robby, a Dakar veteran. “Stages #1, #2, and #3 were were very, very, very tough. Last couple of stages really fit our vehicle. This is more of Arizona-, California-style riding. The first three days were very silty and very, very deep soft sand; I think the first three stages of the Taklimakan was tougher than the Dakar. The last couple stages were pretty easy, was kind of cool with the ice and the snow yesterday.

“Unfortunately, we got all the cars really muddy and dirty before the final special, but besides that, it was some great terrain up there, some great villages up on top of the hill. That was a lot of fun. I think it’s a good run for us. We’re very, very happy with with our result. It’s great that [the rally] has twenty years going. We’re excited to be part of it. I look forward to come back next year and competing. I think we’ll bring a big car.”

Esteban Ocon Breaks Silence After Monaco Incident

Esteban Ocon has defended himself with a thirteen part statement on X, following rumours and speculation he will miss the 2024 Canadian Grand Prix after an incident with his teammate at the Monaco Grand Prix last weekend.

In an ambitious move, the Frenchman attempted an overtake on his teammate, Pierre Gasly, on the inside at Portier, heading into the famous Monaco tunnel. However, the move resulted in the pair banging tyres, sending Ocon’s car airborne, all before the race was red flagged for an earlier incident.

While BWT Alpine F1 Team managed to salvage a singular point with Gasly’s tenth place finish, the incident wasn’t without consequences for Ocon. Team boss Bruno Famin expressed his anger on French TV and hinted at repercussions, though it is now known that Ocon has retained his seat for the upcoming Canadian Grand Prix. Despite taking responsibility for the crash with his apology, the 27-year-old driver also took to social media to address the online criticism he received.

The lengthy X statement read as follows:

“Much has been said in the aftermath of the Monaco Grand Prix. While I have received many messages of support, I have been deeply saddened by the amount of abuse and negativity that I have received online regarding my character, my driving, and my career. Thanks to the hard work, support, and sacrifices of many people, I’ve raced in over 140 Grands Prix so far since my debut in 2016. I have always been a tough competitor, and, like most drivers, I’ve had my share of incidents.

Tank biathlon cancelled again for 2024

Tanks are formidable machines of war, but when there isn’t a conflict going on, why not have some fun? Emphasis on the “when there isn’t a conflict going on” part.

Although the Russian Ministry of Defence has yet to make a formal announcement, reports from domestic media indicate the International Army Games will not take place in 2024. It is the second year in a row that the multi-sport Games are off; the MoD originally announced in 2023 that it would become a biennial recurrence starting the next year. Held since 2015, the Games pits armies from around the world in events like artillery fire competitions and military intelligence. Most participating nations are those friendly with Russia, though Western countries like the United States have been invited as observers.

The tank biathlon has long been the most popular part of the Games, attracting military enthusiasts and casuals alike for the rather absurd premise of taking tanks and running them through an obstacle course like some twisted form of autocross. At the latest biathlon in August 2022, the format entailed completing three laps around a five-kilometre area, firing at targets with anti-aircraft and coaxial machine guns and the main tank gun. The crew with the fastest time and fewest errors would win.

Of course, subpar militaries trying these in hunkering machines means things can get out of hand. The 2022 edition saw incidents that included one of Armenia‘s teams running over every track marker, Sudan getting stuck in a trap and damaging their tank’s side skirt, and Iran and Zimbabwe crashing together. Venezuela had an especially disastrous showing in one heat race in which they missed every shot and went off course to finish with a time nearly twice as slow as heat winner Uzbekistan. Russia won in the top division ahead of Belarus and China, while Myanmar topped the second division ahead of Syria and Tajikistan; a Russian crew has won the biathlon every year since the event’s creation in 2013.

However, with the full-scale invasion of Ukraine now in its third year, Russia has had to send more of their tanks and crews to the frontlines, quickly reducing their stockpile that would otherwise be used for the biathlon. Tank biathlon champions Alexey Bakulov (2019), Bato Basanov (2021), and Maxim Zharkoy (2021) were killed in action in Ukraine.

2024 Baja 500: Jason McNeil, Tim Herbst withdraw trucks after qualifying crashes

Jason McNeil and James Dean went for wild rides in Thursday’s qualifying for the Baja 500, forcing them to alter their plans ahead of race day on Saturday. McNeil has pulled his #200 Trophy Truck Spec out of the race entirely, while Tim Herbst, the Driver of Record on Dean’s #19 Trophy Truck, moves to the #219 TT Spec of Thor and Pierce Herbst.

Whilst landing during his qualifying run, McNeil’s truck impacted an upwards incline, damaging the right front wheel. He described the wreck as the “worst crash I have ever experienced in my off-road racing career. It was very scary to say the least.”

McNeil suffered bruised ribs, a neck injury, and a puncture to his shin that had to be closed up via stitches. Although the truck avoided serious damage, his injuries and the advice of his doctors convinced him to sit out the race and recover. Although not driving, he will remain involved by being in the chase vehicle supporting his son Connor McNeil and brother Brandon McNeil, who are sharing the #242 Trophy Truck Spec that qualified seventh.

“After looking over the TSCO race truck, it isn’t as bad as I would have thought and would be fixable for the race if I was good to go but I myself am not going to be able to race due to my injuries,” McNeil explained. “Nothing serious, but the doctors said that it wouldn’t be a good idea and I could possibly cause more damage if I did.”

Later on Thursday, Dean lost control of the #19 TT and sent it into a roll. He and co-driver Carson Wernimont were not injured.

Jerome Roussel: FIA interested in South American Baja Cup, updating Stock and SSV regulations

South America is long known as a rally raid hotbed, hosting the Dakar Rally in the 2010s and being home to some of the most competitive national championships in countries like Brazil and Argentina. Speaking with Cross-Country Rally News during last weekend’s Baja Greece, FIA cross-country rally manager Jérôme Roussel expressed interest in creating a new Baja Cup on the continent.

As opposed to the longer rally raids as seen in the World Rally-Raid Championship, Bajas are two-day races. For such events, the FIA currently maintains the global FIA World Baja Cup as well as the regional European Baja Cup and Middle East Baja Cup. Roussel intends to attend the W2RC’s upcoming Desafío Ruta 40 in Argentina to gauge interest in starting a championship there; the DR 40 is the only FIA-sanctioned cross-country rally race in the Americas.

Championships in South America include Brazil’s Sertões Series and Campeonato Brasileiro de Rally Cross Country and Argentina’s Campeonato Argentino de Rally y Navegación, and countries like Paraguay and Peru also maintain domestic series. Each February, the continent hosts the South American Rally Race, with the 2024 edition taking place in Argentina.

“It’s a great success that the European Cup now has its own customer base. You have some drivers really focusing on this. It’s the same in the Middle East. We see more and more drivers, and many names came out of the Regional Cups,” Roussel told Cross-Country Rally News. “The next logical step would be to set up something in South America. The good news is that I’m going to Argentina for the Ruta 40, and we will have some discussions there with people from many countries who will come, and we will have a discussion to see if we could set up something for the South American market.”

Roussel also revealed to CCRN that the FIA plans to update their regulations for the Stock and SSV categories to further boost interest. Both classes are production counterparts to Ultimate and Challenger, respectively, but consequently have much smaller grids.

One-Third Down: Reviewing a Thrilling 2024 So Far – Part 2

The Formula 1 season is a third down, after completing the latest race weekend in Monaco. It’s been an exciting start to the year, with Oracle Red Bull Racing not as dominant as everyone imagined.

In the first part, we took a look at the top five teams in the championship and how they’ve done so far in 2024, but now it’s time to take a look at the bottom half of the constructors.

Visa Cash App RB

Constructors Championship: 6th (24 points)

Drivers Championship: Yuki Tsunoda 10th (19 points), Daniel Ricciardo 14th (5 points)

Formerly Scuderia AlphaTauri, Visa Cash App RB went into the season with a lineup of the vastly experienced race winner Daniel Ricciardo alongside the fast and young Yuki Tsunoda. They were the worst team on the grid, in terms of car performance for much of last season but the experience of Ricciardo aided them with car development going into the end of 2023 and into 2024.

Rainbow Truck Team eschews 2025 Dakar Rally for Africa Eco Race

Rainbow Truck Team will celebrate its ten-year anniversary by forgoing the Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia in favour of the ‘real’ Dakar rally: the Africa Eco Race.

At the 2024 Dakar in January, Gerrit Zuurmond finished fifteenth in the Truck category. Driving a MAN TGA with Tjeerd van Ballegooy and Klaas Kwakkel as co-driver and mechanic, he and the team raced fairly conservatively early on to stay out of trouble before being forced to retire during the Chrono Stage. The team also fielded a hydrogen-powered Volkswagen Amarok in Mission 1000 for Zuurmond’s brother Dick and Simon Koetsier, who finished seventh after being set back by the hydrogen fuel cell being detached during the middle stages.

“Friend and foe alike will agree that Africa is the cradle of off-road rally. This was where Thierry Sabine started an unprecedented adventure under the name ‘Paris–Dakar’ in 1979, where the Africa Eco Race has been taking place for years,” begins a statement from the team.

“In 2009, rally veterans René Metge and Jean-Louis Schlesser organised for the first time a rally that followed the ‘old’ African route of the Paris–Dakar. While the big commercial Dakar circus sought its refuge in South America, the Africa Eco Race evolved into the rally most driven in the spirit of Thierry Sabine. Finishing at Lac Rose in particularly is something that many rally raid participants want to experience at least once.

“Rainbow Truck Team wants to make its anniversary year something special and how wonderful would it be to take on the challenge in Africa.”