► Big changes for Prodrive-built car
► Up against new electrified Audi
► New co-driver as WRC legend makes sixth bid for victory
The Prodrive Hunter, which debuted in January’s Dakar Rally with the Bahrain Raid Xtreme (BRX) team, has had a significant overhaul ahead of the 2022 event in Saudi Arabia. As before, it will be driven by WRC legend Sébastien Loeb and Spain’s Nani Roma.
Now called the Hunter T1+, the car has been revised partly because the rules have evolved – triggered by the arrival of the electrified Audi RS Q e-Tron – and partly to take on board BRX’s learnings from last January.
The rules – designed to balance the performance of two- and all-wheel-drive cars – now allow the Hunter to get larger tyres (37in on 17in rims, up from 32 on 16), with bigger brakes, a wider track and suspension travel increased by 70mm to 350mm. There are, accordingly, longer wishbones and dampers, and the suspension geometry has been revised. The driveshafts, propshafts and diffs have been modified, and the body is 30mm wider.
Unrelated to the rule changes, other modifications have been made based on what the team learnt last time around: the windscreen is bigger, with a new wiper motor, and the built-in jacks are both lighter and stronger. Funky new headlights, too.
Gus Beteli, BRX team principal, said: ‘We’ve learnt a huge amount on our debut this year and have put all this learning into improving the car and believe our new Hunter T1+ is a significant step forward. We are looking forward to returning to Saudi in January, where we will be looking to challenge for victory.’
How’s it done so far?
As debuts went, the 2021 Dakar was very successful for BRX, with Roma finishing fifth overall – and bear in mind that this is the toughest race on Earth, and no new team with a new car has ever finished that high.
David Richards, team director and Prodrive chairman, said: ‘We wouldn’t normally celebrate a fifth place, but this one is special. No new team has ever come to Dakar and achieved such a high result on their first attempt. Over the years, Prodrive has created some great teams who have gone on to achieve incredible results and I’m absolutely certain that the BRX team we have here today will do just that.’
But January’s 4900-mile, two-week Arabian trek was a nightmare for Loeb, who suffered a variety of problems and did not finish. It was the nine-times WRC champion’s fifth attempt at the Dakar; his best result remains second with Peugeot in 2017.
Loeb’s long-time co-driver Daniel Elena won’t be alongside him in 2022, after a recent falling out. Instead, his navigation will be in the hands of experienced Belgian Fabian Lurquin.
Loeb and Roma both competed recently in the old car in the 500km of Baja Aragon in Spain, where Loeb was leading before he was hit by technical issues close to the finish, ending up seventh.
Can I have one?
Customer versions of the Hunter T1+, fitted with the same Prodrive-tweaked, Ford-based, 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6 making around 400bhp, will be available in 2022 for teams contesting the Dakar, the various Baja events and other rally raids.
And Prodrive boss Richards confirmed earlier this year that a road-legal version is under development, likely to cost about £1 million. Ian Callum, the former Jaguar design chief who designed both versions of the BRX racer, is understood to be working on the road car too.