The 2023 Dakar Rally has started. 13 kilometres of stage 1A took place today on the shore line of the Red Sea in Saudi Arabia with the Bahrain Raid Xtreme Team and their sustainably fuelled Prodrive Hunters searing through the test with Sebastién Loeb/Fabian Lurquin coming home in second place, just a single second back of the best time. Fifth was Guerlain Chicherit/Alex Winocq in their GCK entered Hunter while ninth was Orly Terranova/Alex Haro. Vaidotas Zala/Paula Fiuza had the bad luck of two punctures but completed the stage ready for the challenge of the longer stages to come.
Tomorrow sees the first big test of the 2023 international motorsport season that the team has spent months preparing for, with a 368 kilometre special stage that loops to the south of the Sea Camp bivouac where the rally has been based for the starting procedures for the last few days.
The Dakar Rally is once more the first round of the FIA World Rally Raid Championship before visits to the UAE, Mexico, Argentina and finally in October, Morocco with Bahrain Raid Xtreme relishing the prospect of the challenge.
The pace of this 45th edition of the Dakar is expected to be relentless as it initially takes a northerly path before dropping down to the capital city, Riyadh, and then into the Empty Quarter in the south west of the Saudi Kingdom. The Prodrive run Hunters have all been through rigorous testing to be as well prepared as possible for such a huge competitive, logistical and physical challenge something all the team are proud to be part of.
Dakar stat attack
790 competitors took the start of Dakar 2023 with 443 racing cars plus bikes, quads, trucks and Dakar Classic vehicles.
The route will cover 8,500 kilometres over 14 stages across some of the most rugged and hostile terrain on the planet with rocks, sand and huge dunes to cross.
The Prodrive run Bahrain Raid Xtreme Team has 67 people and 27 support vehicles on the event to run their four Prodrive Hunter rally cars.
“The stage was very good with no problems. I tried to push hard and drive it like a WRC stage being as efficient as possible and it seems that it worked for us to be right up there. Of course this stage is nothing to compare to the next ones but it’s great to start like this. Overall the car feels good and strong after all the tests we’ve done so I’m confident we can do something good on this Dakar.”
“The feeling was great in the car but the speed of the WRC drivers such as Sebastién is incredible but I enjoyed it very much as well as it was huge fun to drive. I tried to really stay on the marked track as I could see many had cut the corners but hey….there’s still the whole rally ahead.’
“All good as the rally has finally started! I’m super happy and excited but it’s always not easy on the first stage after waiting so long to be here but now it’s done. Next up we can be focussed for tomorrow and the first real stage.”
“The car is really nice and handles so well so I’m looking forward to the bigger stages on this Dakar but today we had bad luck with two punctures so we had to change them; difficult, but that’s just the luck we had. However, with bad luck at the beginning there will be better luck at the end!”
Gus Beteli, Team Principal
“Happy to get going after so much work to get here to this stage to start Dakar 2023. The cars are competitive and the drivers happy with the performance of the cars but moreover the BRX team is in a much better place than where we were in the last two years with more experience under our belts so we’re looking forward to the next two weeks.”
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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.