Sébastien Loeb throws up dust during the ADDC 2023 Prologue stage
World Rally Raid Championship leaders Sébastien Loeb and Fabian Lurquin were back in action today behind the wheel of their Bahrain Raid Xtreme Prodrive Hunter as the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge kicked off with a seven kilometre prologue stage on the outskirts of Al Dannah city in the UAE emirate of Abu Dhabi.
On his birthday, Loeb opened the stage by virtue of heading the title table so had to thread his way across the many tracks left by the motorcycles that had completed the test a few minutes earlier, but they fought through the sand to finish third on this precursor stage.
Driving the sister Prodrive Hunter in the GCK Motorsport colours, Guerlain Chicherit and Alex Winocq were likely to take the stage victory but got caught in the thick dust that was hanging in the air from a previous car. They misjudged a junction, going left not right, thus losing crucial time to finish in second place, but this proves the speed they still have in the car following their two Dakar stage victories last month to place them third in the championship.
Ahead lie 2,170 kilometres of the toughest pure desert rally on the planet as the World Championship contenders return to the similar dunes that made up the second week of January’s Dakar where the Prodrive Hunter won every single stage over the final week
Tomorrow sees the rally travel south with a 242 kilometre stage comprising half sand and half dunes before the bivouac at Liwa.
Sébastien Loeb: “It was ok. Difficult to optimise everything because we were opening that stage and there were the lines from the motorbikes but it was really soft sand to almost bog us down. Maybe I could cut a bit more across some corners but I think some of the cars following did this even more. For such a short stage it was all good though: No problem at all before we really start this rally tomorrow.”
Guerlain Chicherit: “It was great. Always good to find the right speed straight away from the flag even if it’s only seven kilometres. It was almost the perfect stage until we went left when we should’ve gone right as it was in the dust; really dusty with it hanging in the air for quite a long time after the car before. So I suppose we lost the victory today because of this but I know the speed we have in the car. Tomorrow!”
Gus Beteli, Team Principal: “That’s a prologue done and dusted, literally! So good to get the first day out of the way after all of the re prep following Dakar that the team has done in advance of this rally. Running the cars in anger even for a short distance is confidence building for us all even if the real rally starts tomorrow and then we’ll see where we are.”
Source : BRX / Prodrive
- The 7-km long prologue at the gates of the city of Al Dhannah which took place today allowed the ten quickest drivers and riders the opportunity to choose their starting order for stage 1 tomorrow.
- In the car category, Nasser Al Attiyah (Toyota Gazoo Racing) achieved the best time ahead of Guerlain Chicherit (GCK Motorsports) and Sébastien Loeb (Bahrain Raid Xtreme).
- In the bike race, Monster Energy Honda riders Pablo Quintanilla and Adrien Van Beveren prevailed ahead of Toby Price (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing).
FIA: AL ATTIYAH TAKES THE UPPER HAND
Three times ADDC winner Nasser Al Attiyah set the tone by triumphing with a time of 4’45’’ on the prologue. Guerlain Chicherit posted the 2nd best time, 4’’ ahead of the other Prodrive Hunter driven by Sébastien Loeb, who was in turn 10’’ behind the Qatari’s time.
Yazeed Al Rajhi (Overdrive Racing), thanks to a finish one second behind the Frenchman, is also in the reckoning. In the T3 category, team-mates Seth Quintero and Mitch Guthrie Jr (Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA) completed the prologue in that order and within the same second, in front of Cristina Guttiérez (Red Bull Can-Am Factory), herself just 1 second behind the two men! Mattias Ekström (South Racing Can-Am) and Austin Jones (Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA), the winner on the Dakar, did not get off to the best start, finishing in 8th and 9th place respectively. In the T4 race, the prologue was won by Rokas Baciuška (Red Bull Can-Am Factory), world champion in the category.
For the start tomorrow, Nasser Al Attiyah has chosen to begin in 10th, Guerlain Chicherit 9th, Sébastien Loeb 8th and Yazeed Al Rajhi 7th. Cristina Guttiérez will be faced with the task of opening the way on tomorrow’s special, in front of Mitch Guthrie and Martin Prokop (Orlen Benzina Team).
FIM: HONDA’S STARS FLEX THEIR MUSCLES
Pablo Quintanilla, who won the ADDC in 2018 and finished 3rd last year, was victorious today with a time of 5’00’’, ahead of his team-mate Adrien Van Beveren (2’’ behind) and Toby Price (5’’ behind). It was a poor start for Skyler Howes (Husqvarna Factory Racing), who could only manage a 10th placed finish. As a result, the American, 3rd on the Dakar, was the last to be able to choose his starting position. In the Rally2 class, Toni Mulec (BAS World KTM Racing) beat Konrad Dąbrowski (Duust Diverse Racing). Paolo Lucci (BAS World KTM Racing) got off to a bad start with a 2-minute penalty after missing a way point. In the Quad race, Abdulaziz Ahli tasted victory ahead of Rodolfo Guillioli. Laisvydas Kancius (AG Dakar School) also received a 2-minute penalty for a missed way point and finds himself in last place in his category.
On completion of the stage 1 starting order choice ceremony, the day’s quickest riders gathered as far as possible from having to open the way on the special. Quintanilla will start 11th, “VBA” 10th and Price 9th. Mohammed Al Balooshi, the last rider in the RallyGP class to finish, will open the special, followed by Skyler Howes and “Nacho” Cornejo (Monster Energy Honda). From the start of the special up to the finishing line, bonuses will be awarded to the first three riders, under the new regulations introduced in 2023 which aim to reward the efforts of the openers.
Source W2RC / ASO
© A.S.O. / DPPI J.Delfosse
- Al-Attiyah and Seaidan lead FIA World and Middle East Cups after round one
- Emirati Mohammed Al-Balooshi tops FIM Bajas World Cup standings
The Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF) has been delighted with the response for entries for the forthcoming Qatar International Baja, which will host the second rounds of the FIA World and Middle East Cups for Cross-Country Bajas and round two of the FIM Bajas World Cup on March 15th-18th.
With international cross-country rallying attention switched to this week’s Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge in the UAE, the QMMF is expecting a late flurry of additional entries before the closing date on Wednesday, March 1st.
Officials in Qatar are currently finalising the start and finish locations and fine tuning the route for the 2023 Baja, which will again run under the chairmanship of QMMF President Abdulrahman Al-Mannai, QMMF’s Executive Director Amro Al-Hamad and board member Abdulrazaq Al-Kuwari.
Competitive action gets underway with a Prologue stage on Thursday, March 16th from 15.00hrs.
The FIM, the governing body for world motorcycle racing, has recently announced minor changes to the later events in the 2023 FIA Bajas World Cup calendar and a revised competition format for this season.
Riders have already taken part in the opening round in Saudi Arabia and Emirati Mohammed Al-Balooshi will bring a five-point advantage over the Qatar-based Australian rider Martin Chalmers into the Qatar Baja weekend next month.
This year’s FIM Bajas World Cup now comprises eight rounds in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, two in Spain, Hungary, Portugal, Dubai and Jordan and a rider will be able to count his best six scores towards the final classification.
Qatar’s national hero Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah won the car category of the Saudi Baja and holds an eight-point cushion over his Toyota team-mate Juan Cruz Yacopini in the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas Drivers’ Championship. Polish veteran Krzysztof Holowczyc is third.
It’s an all-Saudi affair at the top of the FIA Middle East Cup standings. Yasir Seaidan claimed maximum points and leads the way from Hamad Al-Harbi and Abdullah Al-Shegawi.
The QMMF is offering generous concessions to competitors who pass both administration and scrutineering checks. Entrants in the FIA car, T3 and T4 categories from the GCC will be offered a shipping allowance of $3,000, with international entrants receiving $6,000 if they started their trip from an international destination.
GCC motorcycle and quad riders will be eligible for $1,500 and $3,000 will be offered to international riders starting their trips from international destinations.
The QMMF will also book economy class return tickets for drivers and co-drivers after entry fees have been paid and a twin hotel room with breakfast will be offered for five nights.
For further event information, competitors and teams can contact Davy Patterson, Competitor Liaison Officer (CRO), Email:
FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas – standings after round 1:
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT) 40pts
2. Juan Cruz Yacopini (ARG) 32pts
3. Krzysztof Holowczyc (POL) 24pts
4. Saleh Al-Saif (SAU) 19pts
5. Fernando Alvarez (ESP) 16pts, etc
FIA Middle East Cup for Cross-Country Bajas – standings after round 1:
1. Yasir Seaidan (SAU) 40pts
2. Hamad Al-Harbi (SAU) 32pts
3. Abdullah Al-Shegawi (SAU) 23pts
4. Ahmed Al-Shegawi (SAU) 20pts
5. Salem Al-Dhafeeri (KWT) 15pts, etc
FIM Bajas World Cup – standings after round 1:
1. Mohammed Al-Balooshi (ARE) 25pts
2. Martin Chalmers (AUS) 20pts
3. Alex McInnes (GBR) 16pts
4. Jonathan Finn (CAN) 13pts
5. Mishal Al-Ghuneim (SAU) 11pts
- 94 vehicles have been cleared to start the 32nd edition of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, following the usual scrutineering at the Energy Business Center in Abu Dhabi. 29 FIA crews and 22 FIM riders registered for the W2RC will be taking part in the second round of the season.
- The car category will set up a rematch between the reigning world champion, Nasser Al Attiyah (Toyota Gazoo Racing), and his runner-up, Sébastien Loeb (Bahrain Raid Xtreme). The Frenchman is just 2 points clear of the Qatari at the top of the standings.
- In the bike category, the overall leader, Kevin Benavides (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), and the reigning world champion, Sam Sunderland (Red Bull GasGas Factory Racing), will be skipping the event due to injuries sustained this week, opening up the race in RallyGP.
- Tomorrow, the field will head to Al Dannah, which is making its debut in the stage and will host the prologue in the afternoon, as well as the first stage —of five— on Monday morning. Over 2,000 km, including almost 1,300 km of timed sections, stand between the competitors and the finish in the capital on 3 March.
FIA: A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME
Nine out of the top ten crews in the general standings put their names down for the ADDC. Mathieu Serradori (Century Racing) is the only one not present for the roll call. Sébastien Loeb and Nasser Al Attiyah, a three-time winner of the ADDC (2008, 2016 and 2021), sit in first and second place, ahead of Guerlain Chicherit (GCK Motorsport), who bagged the race in 2009. Martin Prokop (Orlen Benzima Team), fifth overall, also took the spoils in the 2018 ADDC. The Czech and his Ford Ranger came in second last year. Yazeed Al Rajhi (Overdrive Racing), third in the 2022 World Championship but now stuck in tenth place overall, needs a strong performance in the ADDC to move up to the top 5. But there is more to the race than the T1 category! Last year, "Chaleco" López and Cristina Gutiérrez drove their T3s into third and fourth overall. As it happens, Mattias Ekström is swapping his Audi for a T3 for the ADDC. The Swede, fourth in the ranking, will race at the wheel of one of South Racing's T3s in a bid to learn to read the dunes and, why not, to fight for the top spots. The rules award points to drivers and co-drivers whether their vehicles are T1s, T3s or T4s. This is a novel strategy for such a high-placed crew in the standings. The verdict will come in at the end of the ADDC next week. Still in the T3 race, "Chaleco" López's decision to stay at home with his newborn child, who came to this world shortly after the Dakar, means Cristina Gutiérrez (Red Bull Can-Am Factory) and her Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA teammates Austin Jones (who is topping the leader board), Seth Quintero and Mitch Guthrie Jr. will be the ones hogging the limelight. In the T4 category, the 18-year-old Dakar champion, Eryk Goczał, is taking a leaf out of the Chilean's book, but for a reason of the mind, not of the heart. The young Pole has chosen to prioritise his studies. Rokas Baciuška (Red Bull Can-Am Factory), the reigning champion, now second overall, is in a prime position to regain the upper hand in the ranking, as the rest of the Goczał family has also decided to sit this one out.
FIM: K. BENAVIDES AND SUNDERLAND OUT
The Dakar champion, Kevin Benavides, broke his femur while training for the race on Wednesday. Sam Sunderland was also forced to pull out on Friday, when the three-timer ADDC winner (2017, 2019 and 2022), who was poised to return to the competition following his crash in the first stage of the Dakar, broke an ankle. The last-minute withdrawal of the Argentinian rider, who leads the overall, raises the stakes for the championship. No-one is better placed to exploit this opening than his teammate Toby Price, who also sits second overall. The Australian, who already clinched the 2016 ADDC, finished fourth here last year, but Price will be the only one flying the orange colours that dominate the constructor standings. Matthias Walkner, the 2021 ADDC champion, announced this week that his wrist still needs time to heal from the injuries sustained in the Dakar. This could play into the hands of Monster Energy Honda, the reigning world champion in the constructor category, with its Fantastic Four, who have done fairly well in the last few editions of the ADDC. Pablo Quintanilla, fourth overall and winner of the 2018 ADDC, was third last year, behind Ricky Brabec. Adrien Van Beveren, fifth overall, was the runner-up in his most recent participation, back in 2021. At Husqvarna Factory Racing, the odds have shortened for Skyler Howes (third in the Dakar), who discovered the ADDC last year, and Luciano Benavides (three stage wins in the Dakar), but they do not know the race as well as Hero MotoSports two riders, Ross Branch and Sebastian Bühler.
In the Rally2 race, the absence of the overall leader, Romain Dumontier (HT Rally Raid Husqvarna Racing), seemed to open the door to Michael Docherty (SRG Motorsports) but, much like Walkner, the South African is still nursing an injury from the Dakar that will not allow him to take the start. Good news for Paolo Lucci (BAS World KTM Racing), who will not have to contend with his two fiercest rivals.
In the quad category, Abdulaziz Ahli is eyeing what would be his third triumph in a row on home turf, and he hopes to be as impressive as in 2022, when he hoovered up all the stage wins.
Source W2RC / ASO
Photo: © A.S.O. / DPPI J.Delfosse
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