Guerlain Chicherit took his Prodriver Hunter to a milestone victory in the Rallye Du Maroc yesterday as Sebastien Loeb produced a brilliant last-stage win for Bahrain Raid Xtreme (BRX).
Partnered by fellow-Frenchman Alex Winocq, Chicherit extended his overnight lead to reach the finish in Agadir with a 10-minute, 55-second margin over Orlando Terranova and Alex Haro in their BRX Prodrive Hunter.
“I felt really confident in the car during the test,” Chicherit said. “It fits really well with my driving style. My confidence grew, kilometre by kilometre, in the rally.”
After being forced to retire from the penultimate leg with steering problems, BRX star Loeb produced the perfect response alongside co-driver Fabian Lurquin, setting the fastest time on the final leg to keep alive his title hopes in the World Rally-Raid Championship (W2RC).
“It’s great to take some points today with another stage victory,” Loeb said. “We achieved what we could. Looking forward, we will continue to push hard on the next rally in Andalucia.
“Of course, it wasn’t quite the rally we wanted after losing some points, but that’s motorsport. What we have found are places where we can improve before the Dakar, as we’re always developing and progressing.”
Rally runner-up, Terranova said: “I’m happy. This was a big challenge for me because the rally of Morocco is not easy for the driver and co-driver. We showed that we have a very good car, and a great crew. Now we need to do some good physical training up until January to be ready for the Dakar.”
Second fastest on the day, having led the rally since the end of Tuesday’s third stage, Chicherit went into the record books by securing a maiden rally victory, and surely the first of many, for the impressive Hunter.
Significantly, all three Prodrive Hunters completed the rally running on sustainable Eco-Power fuel, which reduces CO2 emissions by 80 per cent.
Qatar’s Nasser Al Attiyah is the new W2RC leader after finishing third overall in his Toyota Hilux, just over 29 minutes adrift of Chicherit and almost 19 minutes away from runner-up Terranova. Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al Rajhi took fourth place overall in another Toyota Hilux.
Loeb had been firmly on course to extend his lead in the World Rally-Raid Championship when he started the previous day’s stage, lying third overall, with a lead of almost 23 minutes over Al Attiyah.
But, 127 km into the stage, he was halted by steering problems, which eventually forced his retirement for the day, with the BRX team working through the night to put the Prodrive Hunter back in action today.
The final leg, which returned the Rallye Du Maroc to Agadir, was as challenging as it was spectacular, 185 km of special stage and 189 km of liaison, all along the Atlantic coast, finishing with a 10 km beach run along the famous Plage Blanche.
From the start, Loeb had his sights on maximum W2RC points as the stage winner, setting the pace on the first 30 km, and gradually increasing his lead over Chicherit at 93 km, 249 km and 274 km, before cruising home along the white beach with one minute and eight seconds to spare.