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LOEB BATTLES TO KEEP BAHRAIN RAID XTREME IN THE FRAME IN MOROCCO RALLY

French driver fights to maintain challenge for Bahrain Raid Xtreme as Al-Attiyah records second stage win

Sebastien Loeb battled to keep Bahrain Raid Xtreme in contention in the Rallye du Maroc today as the final round of the World Rally-Raid Championship produced a classic desert battle between the world’s best drivers

Partnered by Fabian Lurquin in his BRX Prodrive Hunter, Loeb set the third fastest time on the rally’s 296km second stage, which was won by Qatar’s Nasser Al Attiyah in a Toyota

The result left nine-time World Rally Champion Loeb 6 mins 8 secs adrift of Al Attiyah in fourth place overall, but just two seconds away from the Audi of Carlos Sainz in third position and only 37 seconds behind Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al Rajhi in another Toyota

Runner up in Morocco last year after a splendid drive in his BRX Prodrive Hunter, Orly Terranova was completely out of luck today, suffering suspension problems on the rugged early part of the stage, forcing him to stop to wait for a spare part

Swede Mattias Ekstrom, winner of Friday’s Prologue curtain raiser, set the early pace and was fastest at the 41km and 111km marks in his Audi

Loeb was never far away in his Prodrive Hunter, however, and he led the timings at 160km as a breathtaking tussle developed between the world’s elite desert drivers, with just 1 min 43 secs separating the top six at that point

The red hot pace continued for the rest of the day, with Al-Attiyah eventually coming through for his second successive stage win, although only 1 mins 30 secs separated him from Sainz and Loeb on the leg

With three more demanding days remaining, Loeb needs little reminding that the Moroccan stages can quickly bring a change in fortunes, after a puncture and navigation problems followed by mechanical issues ruined his own victory hopes in the event 12 months ago

Starting and finishing in Zagora in the Draa River valley, the 296km stage took the cars on a gruelling passage around the dunes of M’Hamid, with a rocky opening followed by a sand section of wadis and small dunes leading into the heart of the Erg Chigaga

IMG 20231016 WA0084 LOEB BATTLES TO KEEP BAHRAIN RAID XTREME IN THE FRAME IN MOROCCO RALLY

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