The Dakar debut of the 48-hour Chrono Stage has mixed things up on the dunes as the first week of the rally draws to a close. At the midway point of the two-day Marathon Stage there has already been a change in the leadership of the Ultimate class as the 250-metre-high dunes of the Empty Quarter have they say. Tonight competitors will camp in the desert before completing Stage Six’s 547-kilometre loop of the Shubaytah bivouac tomorrow.
Story of Stage Six: Racing the sands of time
As night falls on the first day of the 2024 Dakar Rally’s 48-hour Chrono Stage a new leader of the Ultimate class has emerged. Carlos Sainz took strategy into account yesterday as he booked himself a favourable starting position for today as the 17th car onto the stage. At the start of Stage Six Sainz flipped his tactics as he went on the attack in the dunes.
Not only has Sainz passed Nasser Al-Attiyah who opened the stage, the Spaniard now tops the overall Ultimate class rankings after Yazeed Al Rajhi barrel rolled out of the lead on the dunes.
The news was also not so good for Sainz’s fellow Team Audi Sport driver Stéphane Peterhansel. The 14-time Dakar winner suffered severe mechanical trouble in his Audi RS Q e-tron at 225km and is now surely out of the running for victory this year.
« With the damage to the hydraulic system, I’ve lost the power steering and I don’t know how we’re going to manage to pull through. » – Stéphane Peterhansel
Managing to keep their noses relatively clean and maintain hopes of reaching Sainz, Mattias Ekström and Sébastien Loeb on the overall stage podium were Lucas Moraes, Seth Quintero, Giniel de Villiers, Guillaume de Mévius.
Laia Sanz is guiding her Astara through the dunes with the aim of maintaining her position in the overall Top 20 once Stage Six is done and the Rest Day in Riyadh arrives.
Despite the setback of a 17-minute time penalty it’s Mitch Guthrie Jr. who continues to take the fight to Challenger class leader Eryk Goczal. The pair of Taurus T3 Max drivers were one and two for most of Stage Six’s opening day. Guthrie Jr. will now aim for the Rest Day bivouac and draw up his plan of attack for the rally’s second week.
Also still in the hunt for an overall podium spot in the Challenger class are Cristina Gutiérrez, Austin Jones and Chaleco López.
Significant time losses in the opening week of this year’s rally have all but extinguished the hopes of Rokas Baciuška, Ignacio Casale and Dania Akeel of a Top 3 finish.
There wasn’t a great deal of movement in the Bike race, aside from a big time loss for Honda rider Pablo Quintanilla who ran out fuel 10km before the refuelling point. There remains a trio of Honda bikers plus Ross Branch on a Hero in the leading pack. Then come Kevin Benavides, Toby Price, Daniel Sanders and Luciano Benavides at the head of the chasing peloton.
Stage Six continues tomorrow with competitors out to complete what remains of the 547-kilometre timed special stage. Wherever they lay their heads in the desert tonight you can be sure that there will be plenty of dunes on the menu for breakfast. Finishing Stage Six brings with it the reward of a Rest Day in Riyadh on Saturday.
INTERMEDIATE TOP 5 STANDINGS
1. C. Sainz (ESP) – Audi, 22:56:56
2. M. Ekström (SWE) – Audi, +16:37
3. N. Al-Attiyah (QAT) – Prodrive, +22:20
4. S. Loeb (FRA) – Prodrive, +37:30
5. L. Moraes (BRA) – Toyota, +1:03:10…
1. R. Brabec (USA) – Honda, 24:57:14
2. R. Branch (BWA) – Hero, +03:44
3. J. I. Cornejo (CHI) – Honda, +05:34
4. A. Van Beveren (FRA) – Honda, +13:19
5. K. Benavides (ARG) – KTM, +28:01…
1. E. Goczal (POL) – Taurus, 23:16:33
2. M. Guthrie (USA) – Taurus, +41:41
3. M. Goczal (POL) – Taurus, +48:26
4. C. Gutierrez (ESP) – Taurus, +1:19:23
5. F. Lopez (CHI) Can-Am +01:04:32…
Stéphane Peterhansel: « We had a puncture and the hydraulic jack system started playing up. We don’t have a hand jack so we don’t know how we’re going to change the wheel. With the damage to the hydraulic system, I’ve lost the power steering and I don’t know how we’re going to manage to pull through. »