Bahrain Raid Xtreme have completed the first truly challenging stage of the 2023 Dakar Rally with Sebastién Loeb/Fabian Lurquin in second place overall with their Prodrive Hunter having navigated the 368 kms today tactically but with good speed to be just ten seconds off the lead of the rally. Team mates Guerlain Chicherit/Alex Winocq are fourth overall with Orly Terranova/Alex Haro one place behind them. Drive of the day came from Vaidotas Zala/Paulo Fiuza on their first big stage in the Hunter to be a brilliant sixth on the day and up to 10th in the overall standings.
With rocks and traps for all the cars along the route, punctures could easily have been the story of the day but Frenchman Loeb was wary of this right from the off necessitating precise positioning of the car. However the tracks lined with rocks were only part of the problem for Terranova who got stuck behind a slower car that refused to move over even though the Sentinel (alarm) was being sounded by the Argentine for the other car to move over as required by rally raid regulations.
The sister cars in different colours saw the GCK Motorsport entry of Guerlain Chicherit be on course for the stage victory but an unsighted rock just clipped a tyre meaning a quick change was needed. It was enough to drop time but there are still 1000s of kilometres to go.
The blue Teltonika car of Vaidotas Zala recovered from two punctures not of his own doing yesterday to be tenth overall tonight; a fantastic fight back. “This car is a spaceship!” he said upon returning to the bivouac at Yanbu.
Tomorrow sees the Dakar move north to Al Ula, the region that has arguably given us some of the most spectacular scenery since the Dakar came to Saudi Arabia in 2020.
“It was a good stage for us, a clean stage, no problem. I was very safe from the beginning to really avoid getting a puncture, but that was difficult as there were many big stones there so you had to be careful but we achieved a clean run. With that we kept a good rhythm for the rest of the stage and come the end to be in a good position overall, we’re both happy.”
“The day was good you know, the open road is not easy and for the stage was very difficult as it was tricky, plus it was difficult for us to find some waypoints but at the end I tried to push and I had good speed and good pace so we are happy.”
“It was real big stage, like a real Dakar stage, Nothing was easy right from the start but that’s the Dakar. It was rough with many rocks so a lot of things could happen; it would be easy to destroy the car today, so we drove carefully. We had good pace but we just got one puncture that I was trying to avoid. I was careful but you know one (puncture) was there, I didn’t really see the rock so that arguably cost us the victory today.”
“It was a tricky one because we had to overtake, I don’t know, like ten cars and most of the them don’t want to let you through, so you have to push them. I had one puncture in the stony area because of that and then I was angry, really angry, but I had to finish. I saw the time on the stage or something and thought wow! The car was really nice. I said to Paulo (co-driver) all through the stage, ‘This car is like a spaceship, it’s unbelievable!’ It just pushed through over the really varying surface, sand or stone it works everywhere. We had only one puncture because we had so much dust but that was really enjoyable. I am looking forward to this Dakar, its going to be great!”
Gus Beteli, Team Principal
“That’s the first stage of Dakar 2023 done with our target being to get all four cars back with no issues and in the fight which was good. We had all four Hunters inside the top six on the stage which is a fantastic result from everyone, so now we will build that confidence further for the next 13 stages before the finish in Damman so all in all, a very positive day.”
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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.