Sebastien Loeb and Nani Roma claimed spots in the top 10 as Bahrain Raid Xtreme (BRX) took on the Saudi Arabian desert yesterday for stage two of the Dakar Rally 2021.
Loeb and Roma had the chance to put the BRX Hunter to the test across vast stretches of open desert and rolling sand dunes for large portions of the stage. The two drivers set out from Bisha, with 685km of driving (228km road and 457km special stage) to contest, as they raced towards Wadi Ad Dawasir.
After a strong showing on stage one, to climb up the rankings, Roma started stage two in sixth position in the #311 Hunter. A fan of the expansive sandy conditions, Roma picked up where he left off and was chasing a spot in the top 10 for the day’s stage. However, after some navigational challenges, Roma finished stage two in 04:38:32 placing him 16th for the day and 10th overall with a +41:55 gap from the rally leader after two stages.
French BRX driver Loeb had redemption on his mind, after a difficult first stage of the rally. Showing all his experience, Loeb, in the #305 Hunter, gave a snapshot of why he is a nine-time World Rally champion. He pushed through the pack, showing the Hunter’s underlying pace to finish in sixth position and complete the day’s driving in 04:20:07, +16:53 of the leader. Loeb’s performance puts him seventh overall, 36:40 behind the leader.
After putting himself 10th overall, Roma said: “It was a good but challenging stage. Some tricky conditions and terrain, but it was good to test the Hunter and we are happy with how the car performed. We lost some time because of navigation issues, but that is part of cross country driving like this. It’s not all about speed, navigation is key. Overall, it is a positive day though, the time may not show that, but I feel positive with what we have learnt today.”
Loeb said: “It was a much better day today. On the driving side, I did a good stage; I was pushing from the start to the end with no punctures or time stuck in the dunes. On the navigation side, we made a few mistakes, but it was incredibly tricky towards the end to see the tracks and find the way. We may have lost a little bit of time, but otherwise we did well, and we are where we need to be.”
BRX chief engineer Richard Thompson said: “The stage today was in excess of anything we have run in tests, so to see the way both cars cleared the stage, with no mechanical issues, is hugely positive. What was really encouraging was to see Seb absolutely flying at certain points of the stage, showing that the underlying pace and reliability is there. We need to build on that and push to win a stage.”
Stage three of the Dakar Rally 2021 takes BRX in Saudi Arabia’s ‘empty quarter’ with vast expanses of empty desert and endless dunes. A high stakes loop of the desert, with a number of fast sections, gives the drivers an opportunity to test the Hunter’s top speed. 630km in total, stage three has 227km of road and 403km of special stage driving.
Record Dakar winner Stephane Peterhansel took over from Mini team mate Carlos Sainz as race leader yesterday with Qatar’s Nasser Al Attiyah roaring back in the second stage.
Frenchman Peterhansel leads defending champion Sainz by six minutes and 37 seconds in the car category.
Al Attiyah moved up to third overall, more than nine minutes off the lead, from 10th.
In the motorcycle category, Spaniard Joan Barreda took over at the front from Australian KTM rider Toby Price, who dropped to 15th.