Sebastién Loeb and Fabian Lurquin once more had stellar pace in their Prodrive Hunter today after their stage victory 24 hours ago, leading as first car off the start this morning they were heading the way not just on the road but for much of the day also on the timing sheets against the stiff competition. However with just 20 kilometres to go of a 373 kilometre stage the crest of a dune caught them out, tipping the car on to its side. The BRX crew had to wait for another car to right them onto their wheels but once back on the ground the car drove perfectly and came home in 9th position.
Loeb is now in 11th position in the overall standings, three higher than yesterday including a half roll and with nine stages and 2,500 kms still to go in this 45th edition of the Dakar there’s still plenty to fight for.
Camel grass was the order of the day for all the competitors, the clumps of thick, wiry vegetation accumulate sand in the base of the stalks that become solid over time much like a pampas grass. With many camel grass thickets spaced close together, it makes finding a clean driving route through them nearly impossible so when a car hits one, the shock is hard and sent straight to the drivers who although have the very best seat padding, can easily hit hundreds of clumps in a day making it physically draining.
Fellow Frenchman Guerlain Chicherit with Alex Winocq passed many cars today as they started 36th off the line, the price of which was having to follow through much rougher, cut up and slightly damp sand that had deep ruts in. That coupled with the camel grass meant they will be looking forward to a back massage tonight from the physio! Come the flying finish they took a great 5th on the day, once again showing they’re hand-in-glove with the car.
Vaidotas Zala started 38th off the line for the 373 kilometres with his Teltonika Racing Prodrive Hunter. He had a good run through the test with a clean stage and another top 10 stage position.
Tomorrow sees the Dakar caravan on the move from the large city of Ha’il to leapfrog the planned bivouac at Al-Duwadimi due to flooding from the heavy rains two days ago and going straight to the Riyadh where we due to arrive into on January 8th.
The stage tomorrow is now shortened to 266 kms but the reward should be some warmer weather following extreme cold over the past three nights for the Prodrive technicians who work long into the early morning.
“We had great speed today, genuine speed. In fact we were up on time after such a good run with the car; we started first and no one overtook us but that stage was really rough with a lot of camel grass meaning we took some big hits.
If you are the first car opening the stage you still have to find the line. It’s very different to follow bike tracks rather than car tracks. Indeed towards the end of the stage I reckoned there were only 30 bikes left in front of me.
Then after a crest on a broken dune we had our moment as on the way down it going up again on the left so it was a strange ‘hole’ but we hit that ‘up' and then it tipped us on to the side. It was only 20 kms from the end so it would’ve been good to have got a hat trick of wins for the Prodrive Hunter.”
“That was a rough stage in there. Really, really hard with bumps and terrain very hard to read but starting a bit far back today meant that there were many ruts on the stage and that it was difficult to get past other cars. The camel grass along the edges kind of keep you on one road. Physically your neck and back it’s very difficult with just bang, bang bang over the bumps all the time. There was an electrical alarm after the finish so we opted to disconnect the battery and then Vaidotas towed us back into the bivouac.”
“We did not send any happy thoughts to Castera (Dakar route creator) today as this stage was a killer. It’s better than the stones but it’s like as Seb says, no pleasure to drive as it really took a toll on the back so we had to throttle off a little more towards the end of the stage. It really took a lot as there’s so much camel grass and so bumpy but we got here to the finish and me and Paulo are happy to be here and to have a good start position for tomorrow.”
Gus Beteli, Team Principal
“Another day and strong pace opening the stage which is great for Fabian as well to get the navigation spot on and for Seb to be so quick. It was obviously very physical for the drivers and the car out there. The half roll towards the end for Seb lost him 20 minutes while Guerlain and Vaidotas got back into service too and all three cars in the top 10. We’re already working on the cars now for the changed schedule and the run to Riyadh tomorrow.”
Stage 5. Ha'il to Ha'il. 373kms
5th. G. Chicherit / A. Winocq – Prodrive Hunter
9th. S. Loeb / F. Lurquin – Prodrive Hunter
10th. V. Zala / P. Fiuza – Prodrive Hunter
- 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.