São Paulo – After winning the first round of the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies, two Brazilian racers are getting ready to travel to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Reinaldo Varela and Gustavo Gugelmin came out victors in the UTV category after a five-day race in Qatar last February. They accepted the USD 6,000 prize in Doha (pictured above). The UTV category is for two-passenger off-road vehicles. The duo was also the UTV category winner in the 2018 edition of the traditional Dakar Rally, and placed third in this year’s edition, held in January.
The Qatar race was the first of five comprising the World Cup. “The rounds are long in a cross-country rally – they last 5 to 6 days each. The Cup is similar to Formula 1, with several rounds and cumulative scoring,” explained Gugelmin (pictured, on the left), who’s the duo’s navigator – Varela does the driving. Besides Abu Dhabi, where racing will start on March 31, they will also race in Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and finally Morocco.
Varela has been racing for 30-plus years, and Gugelmin started out with his father. The two met in 2012. That year saw them win the FIA World Cup in the T2 category. They also brought home the 2015 Rally dos Sertões.
Despite the differences between Brazil and Middle Eastern countries, Varela and Gugelmin aren’t exactly new to racing this kind of terrain. This was their fourth time in Qatar. “The terrains are completely different than what you find in Brazil. In Qatar, it’s an ocean made of stone. It’s hard to find the right route, it’s a tough rally. It’s what they call broken dunes, with lots of wind action. Abu Dhabi is a different scene. It’s 100% extremely high dunes and even higher temperatures, or ones similar to those in Qatar,” said the racer, who’s endured heat of up to 50 degrees Celsius in past races.
For two years now, they have been competing in the UTV category, the acronym for Utility Task Vehicle. They drive a Maverick X3. “This is the first time a Brazilian wins a UTV World Cup round,” said Gugelmin. The Abu Dhabi rallies last five days.
Varela and Gugelmin usually practice in Brazil. “Elsewhere in the world, we’ll practice as a go along. When it comes to the terrains in Qatar, for instance, we raced the dunes in Lima, Peru [under similar conditions]; But I cannot practice in Qatar specifically. It takes several years of racing to get to this level of experience,” he asserted.
Besides racing, Gugelmin imports racing and four-wheel drive parts. Varela is the founder of restaurant chain Divino Fogão. Gugelmin explains that whenever they race abroad, they take the opportunity to see the countries and their culture. “I love the Arab countries! I love the food. For the first few years, we’d arrive a week earlier or leave a week later. We end up doing some tourism after the race. Qatar is looking great too. It’s going to host the FIFA World Cup, and I’m impressed with what they’re doing in terms of construction. It’s more developed with each new year,” concludes Gugelmin.
Translated by Gabriel Pomerancblum