HERMOCILO, Mexico, April 26 (USA): 2023: Sebastien Loeb took the lead at the Sonora Rally with an impressive stage win on Bahrain Ride Extreme as Prodrive Hunters dominated day two action in Mexico.
Partnered by Fabien Lorquin in his BRX Prodrive Hunter, Loeb took a two-minute, 45-second victory in the 162-kilometre second stage from night leader Nasser Al-Attiyah, to claim a slim three-second overall advantage over his main rally-raid rival. championship.
The result meant the nine-time World Rally Champion was still in control of the WRRC title race, with Al-Attiyah leading by 16 points going into the third round in Mexico.
It was a great day for the Prodrive Hunters, who set four of their five fastest times on a stage guarded by giant cacti, and it could have been better.
Guerlain Chicheret and Alex Winock, winners of last year’s Rallye du Maroc, finished the day third overall in their hunts, despite losing front-wheel drive over the last 45km to be fifth on the stage.
Brazilian brothers Marcos and Christian Baumgart led the other hunters to third and fourth fastest finishes, and also secured top ten finishes in only their second full competitive stage in the car.
Loeb benefited from a cautious approach early on as he plotted his way through the cactus, leaving annoying spare tire spikes on the hunter’s side, forcing the BRX technicians to tread carefully in the bivouac.
“It was a good day and we won Bahrain Red Extreme and Prodrive,” he said at the end. “No problem at all. I tried to keep a good pace from the start, although the first kilometers were really hard, even a bit dangerous, so I was a little bit careful.
“But then it was a beautiful stage. Very narrow in places and it’s not easy to cross a cactus with a big car, but in the end we kept that pace until the end. We got on the stage so now we open tomorrow, but today it’s a great result.”
Chicheret, who had set an early pace, commented: “We had a good start, the pace was there and we were pushing until we came to a stop at the par.
“When we started again, we lost front-wheel drive, so we did the last 45 kilometers on the rear wheels. There was nothing we could do but just try not to lose too much at the end.”