ADDC 2023: Championship leaders back in action

ADDC 2023: Championship leaders back in action

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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

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