A 170 kilometre stage to the north of Hermosillo heralded the real start to the Sonora Rally in Mexico today with Sébastien Loeb/Fabian Lurquin being first car through the stage on this brand new rally for the World Rally Raid Championship. Fighting through overhanging branches, gates, dust and narrow tracks, the Bahrain Raid Xtreme crew brought their Prodrive Hunter to 3rd place at the line and valuable championship points too.
Such was the speed of Loeb today that cactus spikes stuck into the tyres of the Hunter as he threaded his way through the stage. The car came out of the test missing wheel arches from the front of the car that have been engineered to break off in extreme circumstances and in the long run save the larger ‘clam shell’ bonnet.
GCK Motorsport's Guerlain Chicherit/Alex Winocq had a brilliant run with their Hunter to be within one minute of the stage winner but a three minute penalty for speeding through a restricted section dropped them a place to fifth. Chicherit last completed a stage of the championship on the Dakar Rally where he won the final stage so it’s good to see him back on form and with pace.
Standing out in the sunshine, the two X Rally cars of Cristian Baumgart/Alberto Andreotti and Marcos Baumgart/Kleber Cincea had their first real taste of the World Rally Raid Championship but they both took their time and bedded themselves in sensibly. As multiple Brazilian Champions they’re looking forward to many thousands of kilometres in their Prodrive Hunters, so starting gently was the order of the day.
Tomorrow the rally leaves Hermosillo and heads 450 kilometres north west towards Porto Peñasco after a 286 kilometre test that many are cautious about and yet looking forward to with this new, step away from traditional desert racing in Africa or the Middle East.
Sébastien Loeb - Bahrain Raid Xtreme
“Opening the road we knew that it was not going to be the easiest as there was a lot of very narrow roads and that meant we had to cut the bushes back with the side of the car! That meant we lost a little bit of time but overall to be third on the stage is fine; it’s not too bad at all. This is a new adventure for us all so to have no trouble is great, so we’ll see tomorrow how we can continue that.”
Guerlain Chicherit - GCK Motorsport
“A good stage where I was happy with the car but not easy to be early on the stage, especially for Sébastien. I was trying to follow his tracks off the ground but then there was a lot of dust towards the end of the stage. We made two small navigation mistakes which were my fault however we’ve good speed, I’m in the rhythm and I’ve got good confidence in the car. That means we’re in a good position for tomorrow so let’s see what we can get.”
Cristian Baumgart - X Rally
“That was a good day, the first on a real stage, so a lot of learning meant it wasn’t easy at times with new tracks, new rally, new car…but it’s OK. We had a little bit of trouble to find three waypoints so we just looped around, found it and got on track again. We have four more days to push our Hunter further so I’m happy. It’s a beautiful car to drive.”
Marco Baumgart - X Rally
“The first day for us was good. We learnt a lot as the whole rally is very different for me and my co-driver. We might’ve been slow on the pace in places but it’s the best way to learn so we can progress every day with more speed. Step by step it’s great to be in this car.”
Gus Beteli, BRX Team Principal
“First stage done over a tricky 170 kilometres with single tracks, gates, trees and then dust for the guys coming from behind. All four cars had a clean stage with no problems; Seb and Guerlain were opening the stage so it was a little bit trickier for them as expected but we are in a different position for tomorrow where we’ll aim to get some points back.”
SONORA RALLY , STAGE 1
Sébastien Loeb/Fabian Lurquin - Prodrive Hunter - 3rd +2m42s
Guerlain Chicherit/Alex Winocq - Prodrive Hunter - 5th +3m49s
Marco Baumgart/Kleber Cincea - Prodrive Hunter - 9th +8m20s
Christian Baumgart/Beco Andreotti - Prodrive Hunter - 13th +11m23s
- 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.