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Dakar 2024: Ten thousand dunes but we’re only halfway

Dakar 2024: Ten thousand dunes but we’re only halfway

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The Empty Quarter stretches out in front of Loeb & Lurquin as they tackle the 48hr Chrono

In the 46th year of the Dakar Rally, today saw the very first 48h Chrono stage set over two days through relentless dunes in Saudi Arabia’s Empty Quarter. With cars set a route of 547kms right through the heart of the hardest dunes the stage really is a hark back to the 1980s when the original Paris-Dakar Rally made a name for itself. Just as a guide, the dunes of the Empty Quarter cover parts of Saudi, the UAE, Oman and Yemen and are equivalent to the size of France.

However at the halfway point of the 48h Chrono, the Bahrain Raid Xtreme crew of Sébastien Loeb and Fabian Lurquin had made it through to kilometre 402 where bivouac D is positioned. With all mobile phones sealed in a bag and placed in the car at the start of every day, the drivers can only speak to their chief engineer on a satellite phone before sleep tonight. And again the organisers have even made the time out of a car an endurance too as only the very basics are available to sleep in with the simplest of food provided to eat.

Much of the preparation from the BRX lead crew in the run up to the rally was focussed around this 48h Chrono stage with the awareness it would be a slow average speed across soft sand. It is exactly the type of challenge the engineers relish since the announcement of the stage on November 20th so the team were surprised to receive notice the stage was changed at 2300hrs last night to have refuelling at the stage start (108kms away), 23kms less distance on the whole stage and a 37kms transfer under non-timed conditions.

Tomorrow sees Seb and Fabian continuing on their way towards the finish back in Shubaytah where they left this morning, meaning they have a remaining 200kms to cover starting at 0800 hours. The remaining terrain will have very long descents off big dunes down towards the chotts (large flat areas in between the dunes from where the sand has been blown away) and very soft ridges on the dunes so there is still much to play for, before the rest day.

Just a small number of the BRX crew remain in Shubaytah to receive the car when it completes the stage tomorrow before a huge 853km (530 mile) drive to Riyadh for the rest day on Saturday. However, the drivers will be allowed to fly, giving them some let up after ten days in the cars following the test days, prologue and the start of the rally on January 5th.

Gus Beteli, BRX Team Principal: “That’s a great first step on the 48h Chrono stage today and after six hours in the dunes, Seb and Fabian are in a good position, only five minutes off the leaders. However we were very disappointed that after a huge amount of preparation since the route was announced on November 20th, some teams were caught short at the scale of these two days meaning the organisers reduced the fuel saving element over the dunes, something we were on top of. We have supported the organisers of this stage from the beginning and the length of it was never a surprise to anyone after November 20th so it’s very disappointing to receive notice of changes at 2300hrs last night when most were already in bed.”

 

Source: Bahrain Raid Xtreme

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