Loeb, Gutierrez top Senegal XE qualifying for Hamilton’s X44 team

Loeb, Gutierrez top Senegal XE qualifying for Hamilton’s X44 team

The French-Spanish pair carried a fine 4.239s advantage over from the Saturday morning session on the four-mile beach course.

Times would prove almost invariably slower in the afternoon shootout as the sand ruts grew deeper.

That meant Loeb and Gutierrez returned a stint of 10m57.567s, a little over 10s adrift of their morning pace, but they remained the only duo to dip under the 11-minute barrier.

The fifth of the nine teams to take to the circuit, Gutierrez handed over to Loeb and the nine-time World Rally Champion proved characteristically smooth behind the wheel.

He crossed the line with a massive 27.58s in hand over the drivers of Rosberg X Racing, affording the team the inside grid position for the first semi-final on Sunday morning.

Inaugural Saudi Arabia event winner RXR eventually managed to recover second in the combined times, having benefited from a morning penalty for Abt Cupra when official series reserve racer Jutta Kleinschmidt entered the driver changeover area before her temporary teammate Mattias Ekstrom had come to a stop and hit neutral.

RXR duo Johan Krisotffersson and Molly Taylor secured the position despite a massive moment for Taylor, when the rear axle was flicked up into the air and then the car nosedived, forcing the Australian to divert well off line to recover.

Abt Cupra secured the final position in the first semi-final as Ekstrom and 2001 Dakar Rally winner Kleinschmidt – replacing the sickness-sidelined Claudia Hurtgen – recorded the second fastest time of the afternoon but fell back due to the earlier penalty.

Kleinschmidt was another driver forced into evasive action when the rear of her car took flight and the Odyssey 21 crashed back down on its bump stops. She was also briefly delayed at the driver changeover when her HANS device caught.

With Kevin Hansen filling in for the absent Jenson Button, JBXE was the first team into the second semi-final courtesy of his and teammate Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky’s smooth runs.

An early bath in Saudi, when Veloce Racing driver Stephane Sarrazin rolled and terminally damaged the car’s roll cage, meant the pace of the Frenchman and teammate Jamie Chadwick was subdued.

A “low-risk” strategy and opting for a different racing line to their similarly conservative morning efforts meant they ended the day fifth fastest in the combined times, but seventh in the afternoon run only.

The ART Grand Prix-supported entry will be joined in the second semi-final by the rebranded Xite Energy Racing squad, formerly Hispano Suiza, with the trouble-free but unremarkable exploits of Oliver Bennett and Cristina Giampaoli Zonca suffice to progress into the heat.

A torrid start to life in Extreme E for Chip Ganassi Racing continued as the American outfit missed out on the semi-final due to a protracted car shutdown during Kyle LeDuc’s run.

The rapid American was first in the car and flying from the off with a win-or-bust style to extract a 6.3s margin over any other driver at the time of his lap. But a heavy landing appeared to trigger a full shutdown and LeDuc was forced to exit the car and hit an external reset button at a cost of almost four minutes.

He finally resumed in similarly speedy fashion to claw back 12s but he and teammate Sara Price were effectively already eliminated from the semi-final battles.

Andretti United meanwhile hit more trouble. Timmy Hansen’s morning car reset was compounded by set-up alterations that appeared not to suit either him or stablemate Catie Munnings, leaving them down in eighth.

Double World Rally champion Carlos Sainz Sr and his co-owned Acciona Sainz team walked away in last after a morning water pump failure for the powertrain cooling package.

The car was repaired in time for the afternoon shootout, where he and Laia Sanz snared the sixth fastest time. But with no morning banker laps, they were out of contention.

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