ench star will lead fightback after Al Attiyah takes honours on punishing stage in Saudi
Jeddah, United Arab Emirates
The Dakar Rally once again underlined its reputation as the toughest event in motor sport today, with Bahrain Raid Xtreme enduring a series of setbacks as Carlos Sainz retained his overall lead in Saudi Arabia.
Winding across some of the most spectacular landscape the Dakar has ever seen, the 430km second stage from Sea Camp to Alula proved to be a punishing test, with Sebastien Loeb in his BRX Prodrive Hunter among those who suffered most.
On a day when hard rock shredded tyres and left a string of casualties along the way, Loeb and Fabian Lurquin slipped from second place overnight, just ten seconds off the lead, to 26th in provisional results following a long enforced halt in the desert.
As defending champion Nasser Al Attiyah won the stage to move within 2 mins 12 secs of Sainz, Loeb’s three BRX team-mates, Guerlain Chicherit, Orly Terranova and Vaidotas Zala, were also on the receiving end of a typically tortuous Dakar day.
Chicherit and Alex Winocq, starting the day in fourth place, just over two minutes off the lead, suffered a series of early punctures in their Prodrive Hunter, leaving them short of a spare wheel, and dropped from contention when forced to carry out emergency repairs.
Argentinian Terranova and Spaniard Alex Haro, who begun the day lying fifth in their BRX Prodrive Hunter, endured their own succession of punctures to complete the leg 19th in the provisional standings, with Zala and Paulo Fiuza also dropping down the field.
Punctures were always a threat on the stage from Sea Camp to Alula, with the tracks featuring a number of rocky sections as the route swept through glorious canyons, at times offering views of distant Nabataean temples.
It was a complete contrast to the opening special stage 24 hours earlier, when the power and reliability of the four Prodrive Hunters stood out, as Chicherit, Terranova and Zala joined Loeb inside the day’s top six.
Those results will now be used to drive a BRX fightback tomorrow when the rally resumes with the 447km stage from Alula to Hail.
No one will be more committed than Loeb, who has produced some spectacular recoveries on the WRC and Dakar stages, and will be aiming for another in his BRX Prodrive Hunter, with World Rally Raid Championship points at stake.
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