World Rally-Raid Championship

2024 BP Ultimate Rally-Raid: Loeb chases down Al-Attiyah in Stage 2

3 Mins read
Credit: Paulo Maria/DPPI

Sébastien Loeb versus Nasser Al-Attiyah is one of the most prominent rivalries in rally raid, even with the two now colleagues at Prodrive. They renewed their friendly feud on Thursday when Al-Attiyah narrowly beat Loeb for the BP Ultimate Rally-Raid Stage #2 win, but there’s a twist: Loeb is racing a Challenger car.

With Prodrive’s Bahrain Raid Xtreme not entering the rest of the season post-Dakar Rally as they prepare to transition to Dacia, Loeb elected to drop down from Ultimate to Challenger for Portugal, racing a Taurus T3 Max for Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team and BBR Motorsport. After finishing fourth in class in Stage #1, Loeb’s confidence and comfort in his new ride skyrocketed the next day as he set the second fastest time among all FIA entrants regardless of category and only thirty-five seconds behind Al-Attiyah’s Prodrive Hunter.

Had Loeb closed the half-minute gap, he would have been the first ever Challenger (formerly T3) driver to win an FIA stage outright under W2RC sanction. Even if not FIA-wide, he still claimed the Challenger win by over four minutes on Taurus ally Nicolás Cavigliasso and now leads the class overall by 3:54 over João Dias.

Al-Attiyah, who won the Prologue, spent most of the day chasing down Saood Variawa until the latter received a thirty-minute speeding penalty. The infraction added insult to injury for Toyota, whose Fall Guy duo of Stage #1 victor Guerlain Chicherit and Guillaume de Mévius were forced to retire with mechanical failures; Chicherit lost ten minutes while trying to cross a ford around a stranded bike rider then crashed into a tree stump. Fellow Ultimate driver Aliyyah Koloc retired when her REVO’s engine expired while trapped in mud.

João Ferreira finished third to secure the overall for the Portuguese Cross-Country Championship, which raced in tandem with the W2RC, while João Dias won in T3 and João Monteiro in T4. While the CPTT, which also consists of those racing in the National class, wrapped up their BP Ultimate Rally-Raid on Thursday, the W2RC will continue to Spain on Friday.

“Naturally we are happy, but we don’t even have much time to celebrate because our goal in this race is greater,” said Ferreira, who switched from his usual SSV to a Mini for the race. “It is a great pride to be back in the Portuguese Cross-Country Championship and to win right away. We will continue to do our best in this Rally Raid Portugal to make the Portuguese people proud.”

Portugal native Sebastian Bühler scored his first career W2RC stage win to move up to second in the RallyGP overall, trailing Tosha Schareina by less than three minutes.

“I tried to push right from the beginning because I somewhat know the terrain and like it much, but it had a lot of water on the tracks due to the rains, so I had to keep it safe as well,” said Bühler. “Anyway, it turned out well in the end, and I’m happy to win the stage and regain some time which I lost yesterday.”

Rally2’s Bradley Cox, who nearly did what Loeb came up short in when he set the fastest time in the first stage despite being in a lower division only to be penalised, rebounded by finishing twenty-two seconds behind Bruno Santos on Thursday. However, his twenty-minute penalty from yesterday still lingers in the overall as he sits seventh and twelve minutes back.

After crashing in Stage #1, Harith Noah‘s difficult week continued as he retired with a mechanical issue after forty kilometres.

The start of the stage was delayed by an hour due to fog that grounded medical helicopters, while poor track conditions stemming from heavy rain the previous week forced the remainder to be cancelled. Those who did not reach the finish, including everyone in National and the lone Stock and Open drivers Carlos Jorge Mendes and Johan Senders, were given estimated finishing times.

“The day was traditionally wet, the track was narrow. The worst thing was that I got stuck in one puddle. In fact, a winch would have helped there,” commented Quad rider Antanas Kanopkinas, who finished fourth in class. “There were many motorcycles stuck in one place, so I had to improvise but the improvisation didn’t work. Everything was going well until that moment, but I wasted about a couple of minutes there, and then I was a little bit distracted afterwards.”

Stage #2 winners

Ultimate201Nasser Al-AttiyahNasser Racing1:47:21
Challenger307Sébastien Loeb*Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team1:47:56
SSV400Yasir SeaidanRace World Team1:54:26
Stock500Carlos Jorge Mendes*Carlos Jorge Mendes*3:06:12
RallyGP14Sebastian BühlerHero MotoSports1:47:59
Rally240Bruno Santos*Momento TT Motos1:49:57
Rally350Gonçalo AmaralWingmotor Honda1:55:45
Quad174Manuel Andújar7240 Team2:06:04
Open700Johan Senders*Johan Senders1:51:49
National702João Lourenço*João Lourenço1:52:50
* – Not competing in World Rally-Raid Championship

Leaders after Stage #2

Ultimate201Nasser Al-AttiyahNasser Racing3:02:34
Challenger307Sébastien Loeb*Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team3:05:13
SSV405João Monteiro*South Racing Can-Am3:15:01
Stock500Carlos Jorge Mendes*Carlos Jorge Mendes3:06:12
RallyGP68Tosha SchareinaMonster Energy Honda Rally Team3:06:31
Rally240Bruno Santos*Momento TT Motos3:13:32
Rally350Gonçalo AmaralWingmotor Honda3:25:41
Quad174Manuel Andújar7240 Team3:41:38
Open700Johan Senders*Johan Senders3:41:15
National706Bernardo Sousa*Benimoto Racing3:11:51
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Justin is not an off-road racer, but he writes about it for The Checkered Flag.
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