Middle East News 247

Loeb set sights on Abu Dhabi after record-breakingDakar charge

Dammam, Saudi Arabia: 16th January, 2023:  World Rally-Raid Championship leader Sebastien Loeb has quickly set his sights on next month’s Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge after his record-breaking run with Bahrain Raid Xtreme in the Dakar Rally.

Loeb, partnered by Fabian Lurquin, carries a two-point advantage over Nasser Al Attiyah into the second round of the championship in the UAE where he will be looking to build on his historic display in Saudi Arabia in the BRX Prodrive Hunter.

After a succession of early punctures on stage two dropped him to 31st overall, the nine-time World Rally Champion fought back brilliantly, winning a record six Dakar stages in a row, and seven in total, on his way to a second successive runner up finish yesterday behind Al Attiyah.

The points gained from those stage wins put Loeb at the top of the W2RC standings, and he said: “I’ve improved my driving since Abu Dhabi last year, so with that rally up next, hopefully we can be on a good rhythm again.

“We had hardly any problems with the car itself, just the punctures in the first week that were really bad luck as we were trying to take it easy.

“But those flats lost us more than two hours, so to finish second is very good considering where we were. We had a very good second part of the rally; we enjoyed it; we had fun in the car as it was so good.  

“We’ve taken good points for the championship, taken a new Dakar record with six consecutive stage wins so I’m still happy. For sure I would prefer to win because now it is my third second place, but not everybody finishes on this kind of rally.”

Guerlain Chicherit, partnered by Alex Winocq in another Prodrive Hunter, holds third place in the W2RC standings after two Dakar stage victories and 10th place overall, despite feeling ill during the rally.

Chicherit said: “It was amazing to really be at the finish because, on some stages I was not sure if I was able to get the car back each night because I was so sick.”

World Rally-Raid Championship standings

1. Sebastien Loeb (FRA) Bahrain Raid Xtreme         87pts  

2 Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) Toyota Gazoo Racing    85pts  

3. Guerlain Chicherit (FRA) Prodrive                        49pts  

4. Mattias Ekstrom (SWE) Team Audi Sport             37pts  

5 Martin Prokop (CZE) Orlen Benzina Team                        31pts  

6. Juan Yacopini (ARG) Overdrive Racing               26pts  

7. Sebastian Halpern (ARG) X-Raid Mini JCW        24pts  

8. Wei Han (CHN) SMG                                            23pts  

9. Mathieu Serradori (FRA) Century                         22pts

10. Yazeed Al Rajhi (SAU) Overdrive Racing          19pts

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