Gulf Insider interviews David Richards, Team Director of Bahrain Raid Xtreme.
Tell us a bit about the Bahrain Raid Xtreme (BRX), when did the idea come about and how was it founded?
The Dakar Rally is one of the great challenges within motorsport, and one that Prodrive has been wanting to undertake for a long time; waiting for the right opportunityWe have found great synergy with The Kingdom of Bahrain which has paved the way for motorsports in the Middle East, under the guidance and leadership of HRH Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa. We, at Prodrive, have had a long-held ambition to compete in the Dakar Rally as has the Kingdom of Bahrain and today, with a joint venture between Prodrive and Mumtalakat, and with Prodrive International’s foray into Dakar,this has led to the birth of BRX.
It is worth noting that last year the Kingdom of Bahrain sponsored the winning car in the inaugural Dakar Rally in the Middle East. This year, they wanted to take things a step further and enter their own team and raise their own flag in the Dakar Rally 2021.
What are the team’s aspirations in the upcoming Dakar Rally?
The Dakar Rally is one of the most challenging competitions in motorsport with only 69% of participating cars making it across the finish line, but BRX have big ambitions for when we line up on the start line in January 2021.
The course for the 43rd edition of the Dakar Rally will be brand new and the most unforgiving one to date. When you go to a new category of motor racing with regular competitors who have a lot of experience, you cannot be complacent, you have to accept that there is much to learn, but I’ll be disappointed if, when you are sitting on the start line, everybody doesn’t see us as a potential winner.
We’ve learned that BRX will be using advanced cars specifically designed by Prodrive – can you share more about this? What makes it so special?
We are extraordinarily lucky here at Prodrive to have a clean sheet of paper to design what we believe is, in our opinion, the ultimate Dakar car.
The bespoke car, is set to compete in the T1 category. Based on the route for the upcoming race, our team have created a four-wheel drive car, powered by a 3.5-litre turbocharged petrol V6. The 4-wheel drive car has a high tensile steel structure, and a lightweight carbon fibre body, combined with a powerful V6 turbocharged engine to allow it to traverse the toughest terrain at high speed. To travel the vast distances across the longest stages of the Dakar Rally, the car carries up to 500 litres of fuel.
The exterior is very distinctive, with its striking red livery, combined with styling evolved by Callum Designs,headed by Ian Callum, one of the world’s leading automotive designers of the past 30 years and former design director at Jaguar.
This car was not only two years in the making it was probably another two years in the gestation period and thinking about it alone.
How confident are you going into the race with this vehicle?
With the wealth of motorsport experience within BRX team ranks, we feel well-positioned to be a forerunner when BRX sets out from Jeddah next year.
We will do several thousand kilometres of testing in the next six months and I have no doubt that we will be competitive come January 2021,but the Dakar Rally is a long event, and anything can happen, so you have to be realistic about your expectations.
How do you prepare for an event where virtually everything is an unknown?
There’s no doubt that the global pandemic and the current situation has imposed many challenges across different sports and events world-wide.
Prodrive is very adaptable and if it means working 24/7 to complete everything in time that is what will happen. For the time being, everyone is working from home and the manufacturing side is well in hand to be completed on schedule.
Looking beyond the BRX team, how important is this race for the country?
When you think of Dakar you automatically think of adventure, you think of wide-open spaces, you think of crossing inhospitable landscapes and Saudi has all that in multitudes. We can go from the mountain region to the desert region to wonderful landscapes all around the country and what Dakar will do for Saudi is bring that wonderful adventure, that excitement and that wonderful landscape that is Saudi Arabia to the rest of the world.
For Bahrain, it is the kingdom’s latest foray into the motorsport world and represents the first Middle Eastern team to enter the race with its own completely new vehicle.