Loeb extends lead in world title race as Al Rajhi claims first Desert Challenge win for Saudi

03.03.2023: Frenchman puts Bahrain Raid Xtreme firmly in pole position in World Rally-Raid Championship Sebastien Loeb extended his lead in the World Rally-Raid Championship today as Yazeed Al Rajhi became the first Saudi Arabian driver to win the Abu Dhabi


Frenchman puts Bahrain Raid Xtreme firmly in pole position in World Rally-Raid Championship




Sebastien Loeb extended his lead in the World Rally-Raid Championship today as Yazeed Al Rajhi became the first Saudi Arabian driver to win the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.



Partnered by Fabian Lurquin in the Bahrain Raid Xtreme Prodrive Hunter, Loeb produced a measured drive through the final 206km stage, settling for the second best time on the day to open up a 16-point W2RC advantage over Nasser Al Attiyah.



The Qataris’ exit from the Desert Challenge following a heavy crash on Wednesday paved the way for Al Rajhi’s outright win in a Toyota. He reached the finish in Abu Dhabi with a cushion of 12 mins 31 secs over Czech Martin Prokop in a Ford Raptor.



After his impressive victory on the penultimate stage, Loeb adopted a safer approach to the final day, knowing that one bad landing could block his path to the finish, and wipe out all points won the hard way this week in the impressive BRX Prodrive Hunter.



While mechanical issues on the opening stage had brought huge time penalties, costing him his chance of a first win in the UAE, the nine-time World Rally Champion is now firmly in W2RC pole position in the Hunter.



Loeb completed today’s stage to say: “We are at the end of the rally, we finally finished it. Some good points for the championship. That’s the best we could expect when we were unlucky (on stage 1). We just hoped we could still be leading the championship, and we’ve increased our lead, so we’re happy.




American Seth Quintero in a CAN-AM Maverick X3 claimed the third podium spot in the Desert Challenge, with Argentinian Juan Yacopini in a Toyota, fellow-countryman Sebastian Halpern in a Mini, and the UAE’s Khalid Al Qassimi in another Mini rounding off the top six.



South African Henk Lategan in a Toyota was today’s stage winner, and the World Rally-Raid Championship now heads towards its third of five rounds in Mexico in April.



Loeb and the entire BRX team will certainly approach the next event in a confident mood, with the aim to deliver a triple driver, co-driver and team championship success in the Prodrive Hunter.



The Frenchman also knows that Al Attiyah will be back as his main challenger, and the stage is set for an intriguing battle between the two arch-rivals.






Tony Lewis, Narayan Marar, Total Communications Dubai, photos BRX

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03.03.2023 / MaP

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