Bahrain Raid Xtreme and Sébastien Loeb with Fabian Lurquin took their first stage victory of the Dakar 2023 today with a thrilling run through dunes, rocks and tracks with their Prodrive Hunter meaning they’ve won stages on four of the last five World Rally Raid Championship events. Even with a steering problem towards the end of today’s test, the 9 times World Rally Champion carried the pace to win by 13 seconds after a four hour stage as he showed his skill across dunes that were difficult to drive in any conditions. Loeb has now recovered from 54th to 14th position overall and is now gunning for the top ten.
Third placed driver yesterday, Orly Terranova, returned to the bivouac early today with a painful back following a big landing yesterday that gave him a little pain but nothing out of the ordinary. However, following just 10 kms this morning the pain returned to a greater degree so the Argentine decided to be safe and turn around to seek medical help. Upon reflection tonight Orlando will withdraw from the event to return home, a big shame as he and Alex Haro Hunter were going well.
Leading off the line under sunny skies following a huge thunderstorm last night, Guerlain Chicherit and Alex Winocq were having a great run to back up the speed they had shown to win yesterday’s test. Alas, towards the end of the 425km stage, when lying in third place, they suffered a very low speed roll, leaving the car almost undamaged but on its side, as they came off a drop when Guerlain couldn’t turn the wheel enough due to a small technical problem. Eventually, enough spectating locals arrived to tip the car back on its wheels but with a time loss of around 90 minutes.
Vaidotas Žala with Paulo Fiuza had suspension damper failure on the rear of the car meaning it was too risky to continue without full damping. They returned to the bivouac and will restart tomorrow with a fresh car underneath them.
Tomorrow sees an further ‘looping’ stage around Ha’il of 375 kilometres expected to take place under sunny but cold skies as the sand dries out hour by hour after the huge rainstorms that curtailed stage 3 yesterday.
Bahrain Raid Xtreme
“That’s great to take the stage again on the Dakar. It’s a great feeling as it proves we have the speed with the Hunter. We pushed really hard from the start to the end of the stage as the car was going well - everything was good. About 80kms from the end of the stage I felt the power steering tighten a little but then 20kms from the end it went so we had to be quite a bit slower in the dunes to the finish but we did what we could and it worked. We’re happy to be on the top step today.”
Bahrain Raid Xtreme
“Yesterday we took a big impact on my side of the car that even made my helmet touch the roll cage and at the time I thought it was nothing but after 10 kms I started to feel quite a lot of pain. It was different from before because the pain was coming straight into my back over every bump. When I was a bike rider on the Dakar I had a problem in the 4th and 5th vertebrae meaning I have those blocked (fused) for ten years now but I never feel like this so I want to check if it is serious because it is not nice to be like this. It’s impossible to drive; too much pain.”
“Over the first part of the stage we pushed hard opening the road but we’re wary in case the storms had disturbed some of the tracks but in the end it was not that bad. The rear track rod arm broke but we managed to repair it in under nine minutes at the neutralised zone before we pushed really hard. Clearly the speed was good as we were the fastest on the road at that point until the power steering got tighter until it went. I was struggling to turn the wheel when we were coming down a slope and the car just did the slowest of half rolls but we were back on our wheels in one minute. We weren’t going to give up - that’s not us - so we stopped to disconnect the front driveshafts and got to the finish.”
“It seems to be that every second day is good for us and when it’s good, it’s good! Today though we had the dampers give up on the right and we had to stop. It makes no sense to crawl through the rest of the stage so it’s been one of a kind over the last four stages so it’s been tricky but it will turn better!”
Bahrain Raid Xtreme Team Principal
“Another day that really explains what the Dakar is. A stage win with Seb is a fantastic second stage victory in two days proving we’ve a car that’s quick over this punishing terrain. Unfortunately Orly had to retire with back pain after a big compression yesterday, while Guerlain was flying until some technical issues that tipped him onto the side. Vaidotas had a damper problem but those two cars will be back on the road tomorrow. You never stop learning on the Dakar so we will keep the fight on with Seb.”
Stage 4 Results (Ha'il to Ha'il, 425kms)
1st S. Loeb / F. Lurquin – Prodrive Hunter
69th G. Chicherit / A. Winocq – Prodrive Hunter
Retired V. Žala / P. Fiuza – Prodrive Hunter
Withdrawn O. Terranova / A. Haro Bravo – Prodrive Hunter
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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.