Sainz rebounds with Dakar stage 6 win

Sainz rebounds with Dakar stage 6 win

Off Road

Sainz rebounds with Dakar stage 6 win

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After a troubled run in yesterday’s fifth stage that dropped him more than 48 minutes behind the lead of the Dakar Rally, reigning champion Carlos Sainz rebounded strongly with a dominant win on Friday’s stage from Al Qaisumah to Ha’il.

The Spaniard — who complained after finishing ninth on Thursday that the road book given to competitors was intentionally causing navigational errors and making the results “more like a lottery” — was in strong form from the start of the 448km/278-mile special into Saudi Arabia’s eastern province, which he found more to his liking.

“Today the stage was more in the sand and on sandy tracks, so it was not so difficult for navigation, really,” explained Sainz. “There were not many places where you could get it wrong, so everything was good.”

While he took eight minutes out of X Raid MINI teammate Stephane Peterhansel’s overall lead, Sainz remains in third place overall, 40m13s behind Peterhansel heading into Saturday’s rest day at the midpoint of the marathon event. And although still unhappy with the road books, Sainz accepted some responsibility for his struggles during the first week.

“On one day I lost 30 minutes, on another 30 minutes too and on another day six minutes, so more than an hour in all. I’m not so happy with Lucas (Cruz, navigator) and myself — I’m not so happy with how we’ve been doing. I think we could have done a better job. Not with the navigation like it is here, but when there is a lot of tension and plateaus with many tracks and secret waypoints and all that, we didn’t understand it very well. We need to analyze really carefully because now there is a different philosophy for the road book. My best moment is maybe today and the worst is all the rest of the days — I have been losing a lot of time, so it’s not easy.”

Sainz finished the stage four minutes ahead of Saudi racer Yazeed al Rajhi in a privateer Toyota, while Peterhansel again followed Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiyah home in fourth place. Al-Attiyah, who continues to hold second place overall, lopped 18 seconds off Peterhansel’s lead, reducing it to 5m53s.

“It was not easy — we had two punctures. The tires still aren’t helping us, like last year,” mused Al-Attiyah. “Still, we are second overall and next week we will try to do our best. It’s not been an easy week for everybody. A lot of people made mistakes and we are lucky that we didn’t make any big mistakes. Now I’m in a good position.”

Monster Energy Honda rider Joan Barreda collected his third stage win in the bike category and the 27th of his Dakar career. However, the Spaniard still ranks only seventh overall, six minutes behind the leader — Australia’s Toby Price of the Red Bull KTM team.

“I was trying after refueling to keep the pace down, but finally I won by a few seconds. With a race like this, I don’t know if it’s a good strategy,” admitted Barreda, alluding to the challenge of opening the following day’s stage that goes with winning the prior one. “Now we have one day for resting and we will try to recover as much as possible for next week. It was such a difficult few days with lots of navigation — it’s something new for me with this kind of navigation. With already a lot of years’ experience on the rally, I’ve seen a fair bit of navigation before, but this is completely different to what I know. Now we have a better feeling with it and I will try to do better for the next week.

“Yesterday and before, we had to use one tire for the second day, worn almost halfway down, but it was good. Now we still have three more tires we can use for next week. I’m happy and I’m really proud of how this week went. It has been a strategic race for the first week, and I haven’t had the best way. Sometimes it’s difficult because you are in one position and you can’t do so much, but it’s like this. We still have a lot of kilometers left in front of us.”

America’s Seth Quintero of Red Bull Off Road Team USA took today’s stage win in the lightweight vehicle category, the 18-year-old becoming Dakar’s youngest ever stage winner. He also moved up to third overall behind the Monster Energy Can-Am entries of Aron Domzala and fellow American Austin Jones.

“Today started off really strong. I charged hard all the way to the fuel stop and managed to catch the leaders,” said Quintero. “The leaders had started off quite a bit in front of us so we knew we were at least in the top three. We had a flat that cost us a few minutes, but after that me and my co-pilot Dennis (Zenz) put our heads down and charged as hard as we could.

“It looks like we only won by 23 seconds but in my book a win’s a win. Today went absolutely amazing. We moved up one position in the general rankings and instead of 28 minutes off the lead we’re now only eight minutes away.

“It feels amazing to be the youngest ever Dakar stage winner. It’s the rest day tomorrow but I could honestly wake up as early as you like and go race again.”

The truck category continued to be dominated by the Russian Kamaz team, with Airat Mardeev upstaging teammate Dimitri Sotnikov by 1m08s. Sotnikov continues to dominate overall, though, leading by 37 minutes into the rest day over teammate Anton Shibalov and third-place Mardeev, who is over an hour behind.

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