Following their brilliant run on the recent Dakar Rally where they won seven stages, Sébastien Loeb and Fabian Lurquin suffered bad luck today to sideline them in amongst the big dunes that mark out the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. Coming into the rally as the World Championship leaders, everything was primed for a continuation of their Dakar form, but a damaged cooling pipe prevented the French/Belgian duo from setting a time.
In the searing heat of the southern UAE, Seb and Fabian tried to fix the problem mid stage but it was too much to ask with the tools and equipment they carry on board the Hunter so opted to be transported to the next bivouac.
A close second on the prologue yesterday with their GCK Motorsport entered Prodrive Hunter, Guerlain Chicherit and Alex Winocq flew across the early kilometres to be vying for the stage win today but the Frenchman was again struck by the motion sickness he thought he’d recovered from in the weeks following Dakar.
Bravely finishing the 242 kilometre stage, the former freestyle skiing world champion, who is used to a roller coaster lifestyle, decided it was too much for him to continue and he regretfully withdrew this evening.
Tomorrow’s stage is the first of three that loop around the spectacular Liwa bivouac that’s set in the very heart of the Al Dhafra alongside the stunning Qasr Al Sarab resort. The test will cover 257 kilometres across the dunes and the wide open chotts that give the crews the chance to get up to top speed before the next series of golden sand hills to climb.
“We’ve been looking forward to this rally to continue our speed from Dakar and all was going well but then the water temperature rose and we stopped before it was too high. A damaged water pipe is something we’ve never seen before over the three years of this BRX programme so that’s really bad luck for us as title leaders with a focus to win this rally. We will continue tomorrow for the stage points as they’re always important."
“I’ve worked hard on getting better all of this from Dakar so to have it again is really frustrating. I thought I was ok and had recovered, but clearly not. I really thought I was ok for the first few kilometres today but it’s very strange as it’s only a certain type of dune where I start to feel ill again. Maybe I could continue tomorrow, but I want to fix this once and for all so I can be fast again behind the wheel as I know Alex and I have the speed with the Hunter.”
Gus Beteli, Team Principal
“That was a bad luck day but that’s how it is in their world of motorsport sometimes. We had the water pipe problem that we’ve never seen before over all the thousands of kilometres of testing and competition we’ve done, but that’s another step on the learning curve for us. We’ll get the car ready for tomorrow and attack these stages here in Abu Dhabi to get as many Championship points as we can. Guerlain’s car was perfect so it’s such a shame for him to feel sick in the dunes even after the treatment he’s had after Dakar so we wish him well to recover for Mexico.”
ABU DHABI DESERT CHALLENGE, STAGE 1
Al Dhannah to Liwa. 242kms
S. Loeb / F. Lurquin – Prodrive Hunter – DNF
G. Chicherit / A. Winocq – Prodrive Hunter – Finished but withdrew
- ENDS -
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NOTES TO EDITORS
About Bahrain Raid Xtreme
A joint partnership between the Bahrain Mumtalakat Holding Company (Mumtalakat), the sovereign wealth fund of the Kingdom of Bahrain, and Prodrive the British motorsport and engineering group formed the joint venture Prodrive International in 2020. Building on Prodrive’s extensive experience in developing championship winning race and rally cars, its aim is design and manufacture cars to compete in the Dakar Rally and World Rally Raid Championship. BRX achieved the best finishing position, 5 with Nani Roma on debut in 2021, and 2 with Sebastien Loeb in 2021. Its Hunter cars run Prodrive EcoPower, a sustainable fuel made from agricultural waste by BRX team partner Coryton. The fuel reduces CO2 emissions by 80% compared to standard fuel.
Prodrive is one of the world’s largest and most successful motorsport and technology businesses. Over 500 staff are employed across its Banbury headquarters and composites manufacturing facility in Milton Keynes. While the company is perhaps best known for motorsport, today it is just one part of an organisation that in the last decade has diversified to become a technology business working in a range of sectors and providing a range of services. Within the Prodrive Group, there are four distinct but interconnected business areas: Motorsport, operating race and rally programmes for vehicle manufacturers and global brands; Advanced Technology, providing innovative technology for the automotive, aerospace, defence, and marine sectors; Composites, developing lightweight composite components for the automotive, aerospace and marine sectors; and Brand& developing bespoke clothing and accessories for leading brands.
About Guerlain Chicherit
Born on 20 May 1978, Guerlain Chicherit made a name for himself in the 2000s as four-time freeride ski world champion. In 2005 he finished 49th in his first Dakar rally. The following year he climbed 40 places, and was fifth in 2020, his best result so far, including a stage win. In 2009 he won the FIA Cross-Country Rally World Cup, taking the Desert Challenge in Abu Dhabi and the Transibérico along the way. After a six-year hiatus, he came back with his own outfit – GCK Motorsport – and a plan to win the Dakar with a zero-emission hydrogen-powered vehicle by 2027.
About GCK Motorsport
Founded in 2017 by Guerlain Chicherit, GCK Motorsport showed excellent potential from the start with several podium places in the FIA World Rallycross Championship. In 2020 the team joined Green Corp Konnection (GCK), a group of industrial companies promoting innovative technologies for greener mobility. The racing arm of the group is a test bed for the ground-breaking solutions, serving to prove their reliability and high-performance in gruelling real-life conditions. One of the group’s targets is to be the first to win the Dakar with a hydrogen-powered car.