The Dakar headed south in Saudi Arabia to Bisha today with 375 kms of a fast starting and then tricky, technical special stage with Orlando Terranova/Dani Oliveras closing very slightly on third in the overall standings of the Dakar Rally with a top three run. The Argentine upped his pace with the Bahrain Raid Xtreme Prodrive Hunter, having really felt comfortable with the car over this second week of the world’s longest and toughest motorsport event.
Sebastien Loeb/Fabian Lurquin once more retained their second place overall following more flat out driving seeing the French driver lifting off the throttle just once every 15 minutes such was their speed on the open plains. Their car was perfect over the day except for the air conditioning tripping off mid stage making the car exceptionally warm for the last kilometres, making a cool drink at the finish more than welcome for the pair. Nani Roma/Alex Haro drove well through blinding sun and dust today to be a solid back up for Loeb and Terranova through the stage.
All the V6 twin turbo BRX cars battled through the highest altitude stage of the Dakar today. The lower ambient pressure at the top of the spectacular hills and mountains reduced power from the engine decreasing its output by more than 15%, as the FIA looks to keep the turbo charged cars equivalent in performance to the naturally aspirated cars. However, proving Terranova and Loeb’s commitment on the stage, they were still first and third fastest internal combustion engined cars on the test.
There are just two stages of the Dakar remaining with a loop around Bisha tomorrow that will cover 346 kms before the run into the finish in Jeddah on Friday.
Sebastien Loeb said: “It was a good day out there. The first part of the stage was really fast and then the second part was much more interesting with tracks and real driving so I could make quite a difference at the end of the stage. When it’s fast on these stages there’s nothing to do, just flat out maybe lifting off the throttle every 15 kms so it’s nothing more you can do. Tomorrow is the last big chance to take time but as I’ve been saying from the beginning, we will see where we are on Friday in Jeddah. We cannot try more than what we are doing now as we are pushing to the maximum on all the sections pushing very hard indeed so we cannot do any more than that.”
Orlando Terranova said: “Today was a really good day for us as I said we will push and we did because nothing is over yet; there are still two more days and we need to be on the pace ready for the finish. I was feeling that, compared to yesterday, I can push on the corners with this incredible car; it’s so strong. We got caught in some dust, it happens, but the last car was really difficult to pass as he didn’t get out of the way despite the signal he received from the sentinel warning. The navigation was hard too but we judged the ruts from the bikes and the cars well to get to the waypoints that really weren’t easy so we took some time to De Villiers with the fight for fourth position, but tomorrow looks a hard stage so it’s time for rest and prepare for tomorrow.”
Nani Roma said: “It was a stage with so many different surfaces today but the thing that was hardest was the sun in my eyes at the start of the stage. That was really tricky because climbing dunes you have to angle your car over to one side to not look at the sun directly, but that’s all part of the adventure of rally raid. Sometimes you really cannot see the top of the dune and its tricky to crest it. We followed the other two BRX cars but in one canyon there was so much dust from bikes, quads, cars…it was dangerous so we took it really steady before driving to the end.”
Gus Beteli - Team Principal said: “No major issues with the cars today which is always a big focus with reliability. Seb had a good run finishing 5th on the day to get a little bit more time off Nasser even though we are over 30 minutes behind after 3,700 Kms. Tomorrow is going to be a very difficult stage and anything could happen.
“Orlando had the perfect day to finish in the top 3 and took some time out of De Villiers who is behind him overall standings so he’s now fourth with a bigger gap which is great for him in with us at BRX driving T1+ for the first time. Nani did a very good job again for the team today there to support the other two cars if they need it so that compromises his performance but for the team he’s being brilliant.
It’s homework tonight for this difficult stage tomorrow to make sure all goes smoothly and keep that pressure on.”