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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.”

2024 Desafio Ruta 40: Oriol Vidal sidelined with back injury

World Rally-Raid Championship Challenger points leader Rokas Baciuška will not have Oriol Vidal by his side for the Desafío Ruta 40 as Vidal recovers from a back injury he sustained at the season-opening Dakar Rally in January. Sébastien Delaunay will fill in as his co-driver.

Despite the ailment, Vidal continued to call the shots for Baciuška through the next two W2RC rounds Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge and BP Ultimate Rally-Raid, winning their class at the latter to take the championship lead. The duo finished third at Dakar followed by second in Abu Dhabi.

“Since Dakar I’m having some issues, and after doing some checks with the doctors we have decided to stop to try to recover without a surgery,” said Vidal. “After Portugal, I had the hope that I could make it as the gap until Argentina was quite big, but even working hard every day and almost stoping my life hasn’t been enough. Big thanks to Sébastien Delaunay, who will replace me in Argentina, as everything was kind of last minute.

“I’ll fight to be back soon.”

A navigator for over fifteen years, Delaunay has been contesting the W2RC in the premier Ultimate category with Aliyyah Koloc, who is not racing in Argentina. Through the first three rounds, Koloc and Delaunay’s best finish is seventh in Abu Dhabi.

2024 Baja 500: Toby Price tops qualifying again

Hopefully Toby Price, Paul Weel, and Kellon Walch hired that exorcist like we suggested in March.

For the third time since 2023, Price and Team Australia put the #46 Trophy Truck atop the leaderboard in a SCORE International qualifying session when he beat San Felipe 250 winner Alan Ampudia for the Baja 500 pole on Thursday. However, qualifying success has yet to translate to success in the race themselves for the Aussies, having swept the two qualifiers in 2023 only to bow out with a mechanical failure.

Price qualified third for the season-opening San Felipe 250, but a bolt on the right front control arm broke off and forced the #46 out. Since their début in 2022, Team Australia has only finished two of seven races.

Christopher Polvoorde was third ahead of defending Baja 500 winner Bryce Menzies. Rob MacCachren experienced mechanical issues during his sight lap but managed to qualify top ten. The #19 Trophy Truck of Tim Herbst rolled with James Dean qualifying, though he walked away unharmed; Dean filled in for his father Pat, who is sitting out the 500 for health reasons.

“The #19 had a rollover during qualifying. Driver and co-driver are okay. That’s all that matters,” reads a statement from Terrible Herbst Motorsports. “We have some of the best crew out there. Will get truck together and ready for race day.”

2024 Desafio Ruta 40: Route tweaked, now 1,792 km timed

The 2024 Desafío Ruta 40 YPF INFINIA will be a bit shorter than originally revealed in March, though the general route design remains.

The updated regulations now list the race as spanning 3,067 kilometres with 1,792 km in Selective Sections as opposed to the original 3,213 km total with 2,085 being timed. With the greatly reduced distance, all but two legs are shorter than what they initially were; the exceptions are the Prologue (one kilometre longer) and Stage #5 (eleven km longer).

Córdoba is still the main hub for the rally, hosting the Prologue, Stage #1, the start of Stage #2, and the finish of the final leg. The first stage was originally 466 km long in SS while the second was 497 km. Stage #4, from San Juan to La Rioja, loses the most SS kilometrage as it goes from 509 km to just 412. Half of its liaison section will serve as transfer sections.

Most of the rally, especially in Córdoba, will be conducted on gravel terrain, though chotts will play increased roles during Stages #2 and #3 in San Juan. Stage #4 will see a blend of gravel, asphalt, chotts, and even dunes.

While the same cities will host each start and finish, there are slight nuances in the course design. Most notably, Stages #2 will briefly take competitors into the neighbouring province of Mendoza on their way to San Juan.

Carlos Tatay relishes in “very cool” cross-country rally debut

While probably not a discipline he envisioned himself in one year ago, Carlos Tatay is officially back in action.

Less than a year after a severe spinal cord injury forced him out of pavement motorcycle racing, he made his rally raid début at last weekend’s Baja Lorca – Ciudad del Sol, the fourth round of the Spanish Cross-Country Rally Championship (CERTT). Driving a Polaris RZR Pro R for TH-Trucks Team with owner Alberto Herrero as his navigator, Tatay finished eleventh and last in the T4 category following a transmission failure during the first stage.

After a fifth in class in the Prologue, Tatay was running as high as third in SS1 until a spring in the transmission’s variator broke off. This relegated him to the bottom of the order and out of contention for the overall, but as it was his first rally, he intended on using the second and final leg to simply gain more experience in the side-by-side vehicle. He finished fifth again in Stage #2 to close out the rally.

“We came here with the plan of doing as many kilometres in competition, which is what matters the most and what I need right now in terms of training. It has gone quite well,” said Tatay at the finish. “I was too nervous the Prologue stage; it was my first start, I was too tense even though the times were not bad. The first and second stages were incredible, they were very good. If it wasn’t for that mechanical, we would have enjoyed it a little more and it would have taken us less time, but it was still very cool.”

He originally planned his début for the Baja España Aragón in late July, but pushed it up by two months after successful testing. His ailment, which requires him to use a wheelchair, would have allowed him to enter the non-competition ParaBaja Step by Step category for those with reduced mobility though he opted to run the main rally instead.

PREVIEW: 2024 SCORE World Desert Championship – Baja 500

The solstice typically marks the beginning of summer unless you’re a desert racer, in which case the Baja 500 will do that. The 56th edition, once again the second round of the SCORE International World Desert Championship, kicks off Thursday with qualifying followed by race day on Saturday.

Bryce Menzies and Arturo Salas Jr. enter as the defending four- and two-wheel winners, respectively.

The Course

Once again, the race will be a single loop starting and ending in Ensenada. At 483.06 miles (464.64 of which is timed), it is ten miles longer than the course used in 2023 but maintains a similar design.

Two physical checkpoints will be located at Race Miles 245.64 and 354.71 that mandate speed limits of 37 and 65 mph, respectively.

The Sportsman course will be 456.91 miles (438.49 mi timed) with bypasses RMm 76.59 and 275.42. Pro Moto Adventure, a new class for rally raid bikes, will take both shortcuts as well.

One-Third Down: Reviewing a Thrilling 2024 So Far – Part 1

The Formula 1 season is well underway and after Round 8 at the Monaco Grand Prix, we will be reviewing every team and drivers’ start to the 2024 World Championship.

The start to 2024 has been thrilling, with Max Verstappen and Oracle Red Bull Racing starting the campaign in a dominant manner but later being challenged by a number of other teams. In the eight rounds of 2024, there has been four different winners including a driver picking up their first victory.

Oracle Red Bull Racing

Constructors Championship: 1st (276 points)

Drivers Championship: Max Verstappen 1st (169 points), Sergio Pérez 5th (107 points)

Red Bull are currently leading in both F1 Championships. Early season drama surrounding team boss Christian Horner stole the headlines, with senior figures such as Verstappen and advisor Helmut Marko potential candidates to leave the team. Despite all of that surrounding the team, they managed to start the season in the best way possible, taking maximum points away from Bahrain with Verstappen leading Sergio Pérez.

TheCheckeredFlag reviews the first third of the 2024 Formula 1 season, starting with the top five teams in the Championship.

Sylvio de Barros: 1967–2024

Sylvio de Barros, an entrepreneur who has competed and won on both pavement and off-road, died Monday at the age of 57 after slipping and hitting his head on a rock while at a waterfall in Jardinópolis.

Barros was the founder of the Brazilian online car marketplaces WebMotors and iCarros. The former was the first of its kind in the country, launching in 1995 shortly after he departed General Motors; as WebMotors took off, it attracted investors like JP Morgan before being acquired by Santander, and is now under majority control by Carsales after being sold in 2023. iCarros was created in 2007 with the help of the bank Banco Itaú Unibanco, who currently runs it. His most recent project was electric car platform zMatch, founded in 2021.

In 1995, he won the Rally dos Sertões in the Production bike category before switching to four-wheeled competition, finishing second in 2018. Barros and a group of investors acquired the rally’s organiser Dunas Race the year after. His last Sertões Rally in 2023 was cut short when water got into his Toyota Hilux T1+’s engine during the penultimate stage.

His cross-country rally successes prompted him to enter the Dakar Rally in 2007 on a KTM bike, but retired. He hoped to try again the following year until the race was cancelled, and he would have to wait nine more years before getting another shot. Piloting a Mini All4 Racing for X-raid Team, he and fellow Brazilian Rafael Capoani finished eighteenth in the 2017 edition.

In February, Barros and Ramon Sacilotti won the South American Rally Race overall in his Hilux.

Kim Vatanen: 1972–2024

Kim Vatanen, who oversaw the careers of drivers like Sébastien Ogier and Toomas Heikkinen, died Monday at the age of 51 after battling cancer.

The eldest son of 1981 World Rally Champion and four-time Dakar Rally winner Ari Vatanen, he raced alongside his father in the French Gravel and European Rally Championships in the early 1990s. He later became a professional golfer, competing on the Challenge Tour when it visited his native Finland for the Finnish Challenge and Finnish Open at the turn of the millennium.

After rekindling his interest in racing, he became a manager and agent for rally drivers as the co-head of V&V Sport Management alongside Atte Varsta. Ogier, who idolised the older Vatanen, began working with Kim in 2008 before becoming one of the greatest drivers in WRC history. Other V&V clients included Heikkinen, the late Craig Breen, Vatanen’s younger brother Max Vatanen, Hayden Paddon, Jari Ketomaa, Aki Sahila, and Ralfs Sirmacis.

Outside of motorsport, he was the founder of Vatanen Experience, which organises fishing trips and winter events in Lapland.

He is survived by his wife Minna Helle, the first woman to serve as Finland’s National Conciliator.

Kim Vatanen: 13 September 1972 – 27 May 2024

Eduard Pons, Akira Miura enjoy maiden triumphs at inaugural Baja Greece

Akira Miura seems to be comfortable in a Toyota Hilux already. Although he entered the Baja Greece with the goal of getting used to his new ride, he ended up winning the premier Ultimate class altogether.

After driving a Toyota Land Cruiser for a decade and winning four Dakar Rallies in the Stock category, Miura joined Overdrive Racing for a two-round FIA World Baja Cup schedule in the Hilux starting at Greece. Overdrive team-mate Yazeed Al-Rajhi was the early favourite as he beat Miura by fourteen seconds in the Prologue, but his brakes failed shortly after starting the first Selective Section; forced to race conservatively, Al-Rajhi ended up being the last finisher in the class. Miura beat Miroslav Zapletal for the Stage #1 win.

Al-Rajhi rebounded to win Stage #2 by seven minutes over Miura, but the previous day’s issue left him nearly an hour behind in the overall.

“I am very happy to have won my first Ultimate class race with the help of the team’s excellent work,” said Miura. His next race in the Hilux will be the Qatar International Baja in early November. “This race is the beginning for me and the OPEN COUNTRY M/T-R, which we developed for this car, and we want to work hard together and improve so that we race even better.”

Miura’s overall time was good for third outright among all FIA entrants, trailing the Challenger caries of Eduard Pons and Lionel Baud. Pons took the overall lead after surviving Stage #1, clearing Miura by fifteen minutes while having a four-minute edge on Baud. To preserve his lead, Pons opted for a safer strategy during the final day to seal the win by thirteen minutes over Baud and seventeen ahead of Miura. Both Challenger drivers enjoyed their best career finishes in a cross-country rally.

2024 Desafio Ruta 40: 115 on entry list

The second edition of the revived Desafío Ruta 40 will have a triple-digit grid in Argentina as 29 FIA cars, 54 FIM bikes and quads, 17 Open teams, and 15 Desafío Ansenuza navigation-based competitors take the stage.

Nasser Al-Attiyah will seek to defend his 2023 win as one of nine Ultimate entries. Every entrant is a T1+ regulation car, all the big three of Toyota, Prodrive, or Mini.

Conversely, Mitch Guthrie is not entered in Challenger, meaning the class will see a new winner with Rokas Baciuška headlining the twelve. Nicolás Cavigliasso, set to overtake the absent Austin Jones for second in points, hopes to close the World Rally-Raid Championship gap to Baciuška at his home event.

Ricardo Ramilo was the highest finishing W2RC driver in SSV at the 2023 edition and hopes to do the same among the seven.

Eleven bikes comprise RallyGP as full-timers Hero MotoSports and Monster Energy Honda Rally Team finally have more company, with two of Pierer Mobility Group’s W2RC marques GasGas and Husqvarna set to return led by reigning champion Luciano Benavides; the two brands have not appeared in the series since the season-opening Dakar Rally in January. His brother Kevin would have represented KTM in Argentina but got hurt while training in early May. Besides their usual duo of Ross Branch and Sebastian Bühler, Hero has added José Ignacio Cornejo to their roster; the team will also make their début in Rally2 with new test rider Ramiro Barco Oliva.

2024 Monaco Grand Prix: What the Team Principals said after the Race

Charles Leclerc took victory around the streets of Monaco on Sunday, from Oscar Piastri and Carlos Sainz Jr, allowing Scuderia Ferrari to close the gap at the top of the constructors standings to Oracle Red Bull Racing.

It was a day of mixed fortunes for many, with seven of the ten teams scoring points around the Principality. Pierre Gasly scored his first points of the season, as did Williams Racing with Alex Albon ending the day in ninth, just behind the Visa Cash App RB of Yuki Tsunoda.

Read what the team principals had to say after the race, including Fred Vasseur and Christian Horner:

Fred Vasseur — Team Principal — Scuderia Ferrari HP 

“It was the perfect weekend and one to remember for Charles, having had a couple of tough races in the past here in Monaco. He was flying from lap 1 in FP1 and he did the perfect job. The race itself was a bit strange because after the red flag, we had to manage 77 laps on the same set of tyres.