Saudi Arabia: Sebastien Loeb took Bahrain Raid Xtreme to a remarkable new Dakar Rally record today when he secured a sixth successive stage victory in Saudi Arabia.
With another stunning performance in their BRX Prodrive Hunter, Loeb and co-driver Fabian Lurquin eclipsed the previous best run of five Dakar stage wins in a row set by Ari Vatanen during the original African based Paris-Dakar in 1989.
The nine-time World Rally champion was once again in irresistible form among the dunes of the Empty Quarter as he convincingly won the 154 km penultimate stage of the rally from Shaybah to Al-Hofuf by 5 mins 28 secs from overall leader Nasser Al Attiyah.
Loeb’s dominance over the last six days, underlining the power and all-round capability of the BRX Prodrive Hunter in hostile desert conditions, has put him within reach of a second consecutive Dakar runner-up finish in Dammam tomorrow.
It might have been even better but for a flurry of punctures and other setbacks last week, with Al Attiyah, who collected a one minute penalty today, now leading by 1hr 21 mins 42 secs in his Toyota and on the verge of his fifth Dakar triumph.
Loeb’s seventh stage success overall in this year’s event, the eighth for the Prodrive Hunters following Guerlain Chicherit’s earlier win, gave him an advantage of 14 mins 8 secs over the Toyota of Brazil’s Lucas Moraes in third place.
It was also another huge endorsement for the BRX drive towards alternative motorsport solutions. The cars have tackled the world’s toughest motor sport race running on Prodrive EcoPower biofuel, which produces 80% less CO2 than petrol, setting the trend for other teams to follow.
Chicherit and Alex Winocq set the eighth fastest time today in their Prodrive Hunter, and provisional 11th place overall, given a series of earlier misfortunes, belies the quality shown by the Rallye du Maroc winners of three months ago.
Vaidotas Zala and Paulo Fiuza, who had impressed with two second place stage finishes in a run of five successive top ten spots, were forced to retire their Prodrive Hunter last night after gearbox problems prevented them from reaching the bivouac.
Nothing comes easy in the Dakar. Today’s leg included a 521 km road section, while the final sweep to Dammam tomorrow features 281 km by road as well as the last timed section of 136 km.