Saturday, March 2, 2024

Bahrain Raid Xtreme confirms no Argentina, focusing on Morocco and Dakar 2024

The Checkered Flag has learned that Bahrain Raid Xtreme will skip the Desafío Ruta 40 in August to focus on the Rallye du Maroc and 2024 Dakar Rally. Although not racing in Argentina effectively surrenders Sébastien Loeb‘s World Rally-Raid Championship chances barring a one-off with another outfit, BRX feels preparing for the bigger race in Dakar and providing support for customer teams are of higher priority.

“We’re not going to Argentina after carefully considering the logistics, costs and the bigger picture plus we need to focus on new customer car builds and the Rallye du Maroc before the push towards Dakar 2024,” reads a BRX statement given to TCF on Monday. “It was not an easy decision to make but in the overall picture we believe it was the right one to take.”

BRX also stressed that they will retain the Bahrain Raid Xtreme name for Morocco and Dakar. Rumours have circulated since late spring that the Mumtalakat Holding Company (the Kingdom of Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund) ended its funding of the team following the Sonora Rally.

Loeb and his Prodrive Hunter are third in the W2RC standings behind the Toyota Hiluxes of Nasser Al-Attiyah and Yazeed Al-Rajhi. Although stage retirements in the first half of January’s Dakar Rally knocked him out of overall contention, Loeb roared to life in the second by winning six stages in a row (seven total) to finish second. A cooling pipe issue hampered his Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, though he was able to salvage points via his stage finishes, before crashing out at Sonora.

The Frenchman has raced for BRX, Prodrive’s rally raid factory team, since 2021. He finished runner-up to Al-Attiyah in the 2022 Dakar Rally and inaugural W2RC.

While Loeb drops out of the W2RC picture, Prodrive might still end the year celebrating a championship as a report from MARCA indicated Al-Attiyah will join them for the season finale onwards as Loeb’s team-mate. Al-Attiyah announced Saturday that he will leave Toyota when his contract expires at the conclusion of the Desafío Ruta 40 on 1 September.

Outside of BRX, Prodrive provides factory support for the Brazilian X Rally Team, and Chinese YunXiang Racing. X Rally Team, a Rally dos Sertões powerhouse led by Cristian and Marcos Baumgart, impressed in their W2RC débuts at Sonora as they both finished top ten in T1 with the latter scoring a stage podium. In China, Sun Ping retired from the Taklimakan Rally in June in his maiden start with the car; YunXiang Racing will add two more Hunters to their lineup later in the year. Customer teams are expected to show up in Morocco and Dakar.

Guerlain Chicherit, Orlando Terranova, and Vaidotas Žala have also raced Hunters in the 2023 W2RC. Chicherit, who is Loeb’s team-mate in the FIA World Rallycross Championship, won the 2022 Rallye du Maroc in his first race in a Hunter and currently sits seventh in points. Terranova and Žala only ran the Dakar Rally in Hunters, the former also under the BRX banner. Loeb, Žala, and Chicherit led a Prodrive podium sweep in Stage #9 at Dakar.

The Rallye du Maroc is scheduled for 13–18 October whereas the 2024 Dakar Rally begins on 5 January. In 2025, Prodrive will partner with Dacia to field cars for Loeb and Cristina Gutiérrez.