Hermosillo, Mexico: World Rally-Raid Championship leader Sebastien Loeb has been forced to withdraw from the Sonora Rally in Mexico after an accident, which resulted in an injury to his Bahrain Raid Xtreme co-driver Fabian Lurquin.
Setting off first on the third stage, Loeb and Lurquin arrived at speed into a blind corner with a big drop into a dry river on the outside. With no chance of slowing down in time, the car went in hard and tipped onto its side.
Lurquin was taken to the local hospital by the event’s medical crews for check-ups, and X Rays eventually revealed a very slight fracture to his right shoulder, meaning he was unable to continue.
It was a big disappointment for the BRX crew following their emphatic stage victory 24 hours earlier, which had given them the outright lead in the third round of the championship.
Loeb, who was uninjured, said: “We were driving alongside this dry river, parallel to it, when there was a jump. That was fine, but where we were going to land, the direction of the dry river changed course meaning we were going to land in it.
“I did everything I could to avoid it, but there was no option and we landed hard into the drop on the right hand side of the car. Even when I was out of the car slowing other cars down, they still nearly had the same accident as we did.
“It’s a tough day for us, but I hope Fabian can get fit soon and back alongside me in the car when he’s ready.”
The stage was won by Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al Rajhi, who moved to within 2 mins 51 secs of new overall leader Nasser Al Attiyah, although victory on the day may have gone to Guerlain Chicherit and Alex Winocq in another Prodrive Hunter, but for a puncture, which dropped them to fourth.
The two other Prodrive Hunters driven by Brazilian brothers Marcos and Cristian Baumgart finished the day inside the top ten on their first time driving in dunes, giving them a solid start to their build up to Dakar 2024 in Saudi Arabia.
Chicherit, last year’s Rallye du Maroc winner, completed the leg to say: “It was a proper stage that. Really tough and rough and ultimately, what we are expecting to get in rally raid. So it lived up to expectations with these big holes in places, with no warning, where the ground has just collapsed.
“The cactus are quite something too as if you hit one of them at high speed, it’s a mess. On the stage we had great speed at the beginning but we had a puncture so stopped to change that but once going again it took 30 kilometres to get back to overtake that same car again.”