Bahrain Raid Xtreme are back in action this week as leaders of the 2023 World Rally Raid Championship for round two of the title chase, the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge offering 2,170kms of hot, demanding and relentless stages in what has become known as the world’s ultimate desert rally. Sébastien Loeb and Fabian Lurquin lead the championship with their Prodrive Hunter following the Dakar Rally opener in January and come to Abu Dhabi, after their record consecutive run of stage victories last month in Saudi Arabia, keen to return to the similar dunes just over the border from where they had so much success.
With the lion’s share of the route based in the south of the UAE around the Al Dhafra region, it will be familiar territory for the two Prodrive Hunters entered on the event for Loeb/Lurquin and the GCK Motorsport entry of Guerlain Chicherit/Alex Winocq as the dunes form the most northerly part of the Empty Quarter, a huge desert that is 1,000kms long and 500kms wide that reaches over not only the UAE but also Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Oman. Seemingly endless, the dunes will provide some of the most spectacular scenery in this year’s five round championship that will lead on towards Mexico, Argentina and Morocco.
The Prodrive Hunter was unbeaten during the second week of the Dakar Rally across this terrain but with the pace of the championship there has been no stone left unturned in the preparation of the cars to keep BRX at the top of the Drivers, Co-Drivers and Manufacturers tables. This lead was achieved with strong team work, engineering prowess all while using Coryton’s sustainable fuel powering the Hunter’s 3.5 litre twin turbo engine that produces 80% less CO2 emissions to win nine out of the fourteen stages on Dakar plus a dominant 1-2-3 stage finish.
With the start of the rally in Abu Dhabi itself before moving on to Al Dhannah and Al Dhafra, this 32nd running of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge is sure to be another classic in the ever-growing world of Rally Raid with the winners list since 1991 reading like a ‘Who’s Who’ of the sport making success here all the more significant. The prologue takes place on Sunday 26th February leading to 2,170kms and five stages based around the Qasr Al Sarah bivouac in the heart of the dunes before the finish on Friday 4th March back in Abu Dhabi on the shores of the Persian Gulf.
“I’m very happy to return to Rally Raid after Dakar where we saw that we had some very good speed, especially in the dunes, so we are leading the championship. Of course it would be great to come out of Abu Dhabi still at the top of the points but I remember last year that it was not easy as Nasser (Al-Attiyah) was quick, but I hope that what we saw on Dakar means that we will be able to fight with him so that’s the main target for Fabian and I. I look forward to having a good clean rally so we can continue to build upon our current pace in the Prodrive Hunter.”
“The six weeks between the Dakar Rally and the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge were not too much for me! My body was very tired after the 15 days of rallying so I’ve recovered and trained well with a specialist to start this second event of the season in the best condition. We know that our Hunter performs well, especially in the dunes that make the ADDC so special. It is an event that I like very much as I won it a long time ago in 2009.”
Gus Beteli, Team Principal
“We’re very much looking forward to Abu Dhabi especially after such a strong showing in the second week of Dakar over the similar dunes so we’re hoping to carry that pace over to these stages. As leaders of the World Rally Raid Championship the target is to finish well and maintain the speed we have with the Hunter before we move on to Mexico in April."
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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.