Thursday’s stage of the Dakar Rally required the competitors to think on their feet. A shortened special stage, forced by recent heavy flooding in the Al Duwadimi region of Saudi Arabia, brought new troubles to some but paid dividends for others.
Taking things in his stride was car race leader Nasser Al-Attiyah, who scored a second consecutive stage win alongside co-driver Mathieu Baumel. With six stages down and eight more to go, Al-Attiyah has a lead of over an hour over fellow Toyota driver Henk Lategan as he chases down his fifth Dakar title. It wasn’t all easy going, though.
“We pushed a lot and for the last 40km we had a broken steering pump. We lost steering and were losing a lot of oil,” related the Qatari. “Thankfully we could make it to the end of the stage.”
Two of Al-Attiyah’s closest challengers had been the Team Audi Sport crews of Stephane Peterhansel/Edouard Boulanger and Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz. But Peterhansel crashed out of the race 212km/132 miles in. Remarkably, Sainz also suffered a separate stoppage at exactly the same place. The two drivers with 17 Dakar wins between them will not be adding another trophy to their collection on this visit to Saudi Arabia.
🎥 First footage of the two @audisport cars which crashed in the same place. @s_peterhansel and Édouard Boulanger had to abandon while @CSainz_oficial and @LucasCruz74 are still trying to fix their car. 🛠#Dakar2023 pic.twitter.com/14VwkwUsue
— DAKAR RALLY (@dakar) January 6, 2023
Enjoying a much cleaner stage were Sebastien Loeb/Fabian Lurquin in their BRX Hunter. This duo may have seen their chances of victory take a serious dent in recent days, but the overall podium is still within sight.
“When you see what happened, I think in the end that we did a good stage,” mused Loeb. “We’ve made a good step in the general rankings.”
One of the crews Loeb must catch if he is to climb onto the overall podium are Lucas Moraes/Timo Gottschalk. The remarkable rookie performance of Moraes continued on Stage 6, lifting him to third overall.
Less than 20 minutes separate the top eight riders in the two-wheel contest and that won’t change tomorrow as Stage 7 is cancelled for the bikers. America’s Skyler Howes continues to head the standings, adding to his overall lead with a second place in Stage 6, 56s behind Husqvarna Factory Racing teammate Luciano Benavides. Howes now leads two-time Dakar champion Toby Price by 3m31s.
“The only thing on my mind today was to go as fast as possible. As soon as we hit the dunes, we were going in a super good direction, so you can kind of jump them,” said Howes. “It was a really fun stage and the dunes were wet still, so you got a lot of traction through them.”
The only other rider inside the current top eight who knows what it’s like to win the Dakar is Price’s fellow Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider Kevin Benavides, who is 7m01s off the top spot.
🏍🤩 @skylerhowes110 seems to be building on the momentum of his impeccable end to last season! Watch the Top moments of stage 6!
— World Rally-Raid Championship 🚗 🏍 (@OfficialW2RC) January 6, 2023
It was a good day for Guillaume De Mevius and co-driver Francois Cazalet in their OT3. The pair set the day’s fastest time in the T3 category to increase their lead in the general classification. Pushing hard were the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA presented by BFGoodrich crews of Seth Quintero/Dennis Zenz and Austin Jones/Gustavo Gugelmin as they filled up the rest of the T3 podium positions.
A reconfigured Stage 7 will take the cars, trucks and side-by-sides from Riyadh to the Al Duwadimi bivouac via a 333km/207-mile timed special. At the end of the special stage competitors will be permitted two hours in an assistance zone where they will find their mechanics. Then competitors will head to the Al Duwadimi bivouac where their vehicles will spend the night in parc ferme. The stage Seven has been canceled for the bike and quad categories. They will rejoin the race on Stage 8, running from Al Duwadimi to Riyadh.
Selected Overall Standings after Stage 6
T1 Car Class
1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) TOYOTA 24:00:48
2. Henk Lategan (ZAF) TOYOTA +01:06:50
3. Lucas Moraes (BRA) TOYOTA +01:13:19
4. Giniel De Villiers (ZAF) TOYOTA +01:44:38
5. Mattias Ekstrom (SWE) AUDI +01:46:55
6. Sebastien Loeb (FRA) BRX +01:57:10
45. Kuba Przygonski (POL) MINI +07:05:02
88. Laia Sanz (ESP) ASTARA +15:39:15
T3 Lightweight Prototype
1. Guillaume De Mevius (BEL) OT3 27:55:22
2. Austin Jones (USA) CAN-AM +08:59
3. Seth Quintero (USA) CAN-AM +01:08:15
4. Chaleco Lopez (CHL) CAN-AM + 02:45:23
5. Cristina Gutiérrez (ESP) CAN-AM +02:53:59
11. Ignacio Casale (CHL) YAMAHA +06:57:32
21. Mitch Guthrie Jr. (USA) CAN-AM +24:49:35
1. Rodrigo Luppi De Oliveira (BRA) CAN-AM 29:02:55
2. Rokas Baciuska (LTU) CAN-AM +20:17
3. Eryk Goczal (POL) CAN-AM +22:32
1. Skyler Howes (USA) HUSQVARNA 26:31:52
2. Toby Price (AUS) KTM +03:31
3. Kevin Benavides (ARG) KTM +07:01
8. Daniel Sanders (AUS) GASGAS +19:54