Saturday, April 20, 2024

Laurent Lichtleuchter killed in Morocco Desert Challenge accident

Laurent Lichtleuchter, a twice-winning co-driver in the Dakar Rally‘s T2 category, died during Wednesday’s Morocco Desert Challenge stage in a freak accident. He was 40 years old.

The crash occurred fifty-four kilometres into Stage #4 when Lichtleuchter and Patrice Garrouste‘s #237 Polaris RZR was hit by another car, unable to see them through the intense dust, in the co-driver’s side at 140 km/h. The impact was so violent that their car burst into flames almost immediately, killing Lichtleuchter instantly.

Garrouste suffered burns but was escaped the car in time.

“This is a very sad news and we are profoundly grieved,” said Marco Piana, owner of Lichtleuchter’s team Xtremeplus. “We lose a dear friend who was part of the Xtremeplus family for twenty years. We have no words to express this loss. Our thought and condolences go to his family. He leaves three beautiful children.”

Lichtleuchter was a veteran navigator, having called the shots at the Dakar Rally since 2009 in both trucks and cars, with much of his work in the past decade coming for Toyota. He and Peter Jerie won the 2015 Desafío Guarani in Argentina and the Dakar Series championship before the former was picked up by Team Land Cruiser Toyota Auto Body for 2016 onwards. Working with Akira Miura, the duo finished second in their Silk Way Rally début that year.

The Miura/Lichtleuchter tandem won the Dakar Rally’s T2 category for production vehicles in 2018, 2021, and 2022. They battled with TLC team-mates Ronald Basso and Jean-Michel Polato at the 2023 edition and placed second though scored eleven of fifteen stage wins.

“I had no word,” commented Miura. “He’s my best friend and like a brother. I can’t believe now…”

Other drivers the Frenchman worked for at Dakar include Sylvain Besnard, Boris Garafulic, Vadym Nesterchuk, Didier Panissie, Szymon Ruta, and Yasir Seaidan.

Between Dakar and Morocco, he was the co-driver for Dania Akeel in the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas. With Lichtleuchter, Akeel became the first Arab woman to win the Cross-Country Bajas championship when she claimed the 2021 T3 title.

“My deepest condolences to Laurent’s family and everyone who knew him,” Akeel wrote. “He was a wonderful person. The perfect teammate, and a great friend.”

The tragedy adds to a list of losses involving Dakar Rally personnel in the past five months that includes truck racer Georges Groine in December and co-driver Matthew Stevenson in February, while spectator Livio Sassinotti was killed in an accident at the 2023 edition. April alone has seen the deaths of Croatian rally legend Tihomir Filipović and Mitsubishi and Citroën factory programme member Alexandre Boutevillain, the latter passing just seven days ago.

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