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

Abu Dhabi, Mar. 3 (BNA): Sebastien Loeb strengthened his lead in the World Rally Championship today, as Yazeed Al-Rajhi became the first Saudi driver to win the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.


Partnered with Fabien Lorquin in the Bahrain Raid Xtreme Prodrive Hunter, Loeb produced a calculated drive through the final 206km stage, settling into the second best time of the day to open up a 15-point W2RC advantage over Nasser Al-Attiyah.


The Qatari’s exit from the desert rally after a brutal crash on Wednesday paved the way for Al Rajhi’s outright victory in a Toyota. He reached the finish line in Abu Dhabi with a lead of 12 minutes and 31 seconds over Czech Martin Prokop in a Ford Raptor.


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


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


Loeb completed today’s stage to say: “We’ve come to the end of the rally, we’ve finished it last. Some good points for the championship. It’s the best we could have expected when we were unlucky (on the first stage). So we’re happy.


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American Seth Quintero in a CAN-AM Maverick X3 finished third on the podium in the Desert Challenge, with Argentinian Juan Iacobini in a Toyota, compatriot Sebastian Halpern in a Mini, and Emirati Khaled Al Qassimi in another Mini. six.


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


Loeb and the entire BRX team are sure to approach the next event in a confident mood, aiming for a triple success for driver, co-driver and team at Prodrive Hunter.


The Frenchman also knows that Al-Attiyah will return as his main rival, and the stage is set for an exciting battle between the two arch-rivals.


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