Riyadh: Orlando Terranova secured a brilliant stage victory for Bahrain Raid Xtreme on Friday as Dakar Rally reached the halfway point in Riyadh.
The Argentine driver, partnered by Spain’s Dani Oliveras in their BRX Prodrive Hunter, was fastest by 1 mins 6 seconds from Sweden’s Mattias Ekstrom on the 348-km sixth special as he continued his climb up the rankings to seventh overall.
The quality of Terranova’s drive was underlined by the fact that he was more than six minutes quicker on the day than Nasser Al Attiyah, who extended his overall lead despite recording only 10th best stage time.
Two-time Dakar winner Nani Roma with Alex Haro also impressed in another of the BRX Prodrive Hunters, going fifth fastest over the punishing terrain.
It was a frustrating day for Sebastien Loeb, who lost time at a tricky navigational turn but still completed the first half of the Dakar in third place overall alongside Fabian Lurquin in their BRX Prodrive Hunter.
The nine-times World Rally champion is just 1 min 31 secs adrift of Saudi’s Yazeed Al Rajhi who trails leader Al Attiyah by 48 mins 54 secs as the rally arrives at the midpoint rest day in Riyadh.
Up ahead before the return to Jeddah are six more stages adding up to 2,179 kms, a distance similar to driving from Paris to Casablanca. Terranova’s seventh stage win in 16 Dakars was the second of the rally for the Prodrive Hunter, and for the sustainable Prodrive EcoPower fuel making its debut on this event, reducing CO2 emissions by 80%.
Terranova said: “It was a very nice stage, difficult in places but easier in others as the tracks of the bike from yesterday made it easier, but we kept our concentration and the speed.”
“Towards the end the navigation was very hard because there were so many tracks but it all worked well because for the first time since 2015 we have a stage victory and it feels fantastic.”
Loeb said: “We got lost after 100 kms. We tried to push and close the gap so even though we had good speed and great pace over the stage we lost too much time earlier. But we are only half way through this rally so we will continue to push and do some good stages all the way back to Jeddah.”
Roma said: “We really did take a normal speed through the kilometres, but this second week ahead will be much harder than the first as we are going over some ground we did last year. It won’t be easy for everyone but we’re confident for these days ahead.”