HAIL: Sebastien Loeb gave Bahrain Raid Xtreme a second successive stage victory in the Dakar Rally on Wednesday after a spectacular battle in Saudi Arabia with the event’s most prolific winner.
Loeb, whose overall victory hopes have been ruined by a spate of punctures and a rear suspension failure, produced a superb drive alongside Fabian Lurquin in their BRX Prodrive Hunter to edge out Stephane Peterhansel’s Audi by 13 seconds on the 425 km fourth stage.
Starting and finishing in Hail, the stage presented a classic battle between nine-time World Rally Champion Loeb and 14-time Dakar winner Peterhansel, with the BRX driver finally grabbing the lead after 327 km and holding it to the finish.
His winning margin could have been much greater, as he was without power steering toward the end of the stage, and lost about 10 minutes.
Loeb’s win, following second place on Monday, lifted him to provisional 14th overall, but more significantly brought him maximum points on the day toward his World Rally-Raid Championship (W2RC) bid with BRX.
Fourth fastest on the stage in his Toyota, Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah increased his overall lead to 18 minutes 18 seconds over Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi in another Toyota.
Guerlain Chicherit’s hopes of a second successive stage success with Alex Winocq in their Prodrive Hunter ended when they were forced to stop to carry out repairs after 342 km.
Orlando Terranova, third fastest yesterday in his BRX Prodrive Hunter with Alex Haro, made his way back to the bivouac after 10 km because of back pain which returned following a hard landing 24 hours earlier.
The Argentine had his fourth and fifth vertebrae fused 10 years ago as a result of a bike injury on the Dakar. Feeling pain in the same area, he decided on a medical check-up.
After an X-ray at the bivouac, he is resting and consulting his physio before making a decision on resuming.
Seventh fastest on Tuesday in their Prodrive Hunter, Lithuanians Vaidotas Zala and Paulo Fiuza also returned to the bivouac for repairs to their vehicle’s suspension.
After rain flooded parts of the route and shortened proceedings the previous day, Wednesday’s stage sent the cars through an opening 100 km stretch of dunes before switching to tracks that presented navigational challenges on the return to Hail.
There were no problems for Loeb, however, as he served notice that he intends go one better at the wheel of his BRX Prodrive Hunter in the W2RC after finishing runner-up to Al-Attiyah last year.