Frenchman Guerlain Chicherit extended his lead yesterday in the Rallye Du Maroc on a day of mixed fortunes for Bahrain Raid Xtreme (BRX) in the penultimate round of the World Rally-Raid Championship.
After another impressive display alongside Alex Winocq in their Prodrive Hunter, Chicherit carries an overall advantage of 9 minutes, 57 seconds from Orly Terranova and his BRX co-driver Alex Haro into today’s final leg.
Terranova produced another solid drive to set the day’s fourth fastest time. But hopes of a Prodrive Hunter outright 1-2-3 for a third day were disrupted by mechanical issues which dropped his BRX team-mate and world championship leader, Sebastien Loeb, out of contention.
Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al Rajhi in a Toyota Hilux was yesterday’s stage winner from Chicherit, although he lies a distant 40 minutes, 48 seconds off the lead in fourth position.
Qatar’s Nasser Al Attiyah, Loeb’s major rival in the world title race, recorded the third fastest time in another Toyota Hilux and is placed third overall. But he lies more than 28 minutes away from Chicherit, with a gap of almost 19 mins to Terranova.
Yesterday’s stage was the longest of the rally, and the most spectacular, unwinding across a variety of tracks and mountainous terrain to deliver the survivors to the overnight bivouac in the desert town of Tan-Tan.
Once again, it was Chicherit who set off quickest, showing his liking for the Prodrive Hunter and underlining his belief that he can only get faster in a car he is driving competitively for the first time.
After the first 89-km, he was 30 seconds ahead of Al Rajhi on the stage, 2 minutes, 13 seconds in front of Al Attiyah, and 4 minutes, 34 seconds ahead of Loeb.
At the 131km point, the Frenchman and the Saudi were locked in a dead heat on the day as Chicherit pursued his double target, to win a first stage and retain his outright lead in the rally.
It was at this point, however, that Loeb ran completely out of luck when he was halted by mechanical issues, while still holding fourth place and was in danger of not finishing the stage.