For the last day of racing before the rest day, stage 6 gave rise to a game of musical chairs between the FIA
and FIM loops from the day before in the region of Riyadh. The cars and bikes started at the same time from 7.45 AM onwards on their respective specials. While the cars found the familiar traces of the two-wheelers on the ground in front of them, the leading bikers, used to tackling tracks that are unsullied or at least merely marked by a few of their colleagues opening the way, it was an unprecedented experience. The majority of the route for the timed section was already marked by the passage of the FIA categories the day before. These traces that were sometimes accentuated by the inclement weather, making the route unpassable on certain portions, forced the race management to stop the bikers and quad riders at the first shared neutralisation point, after 101 km. In the end, the bikes and quads only gobbled up a quarter of what was on the menu, meaning they enjoyed extra well-deserved rest from the beginning of the afternoon. This was a blessing for certain riders, such as Joan Barreda, who set out patched up after his fall yesterday. In the car category, the 348-km special to the east of the Saudi capital kept its promises and enabled Terranova and Ekström to shine.
On distanced terrains and different models, red overalls and a vehicle of the same colour were victorious on the last special before the rest day, thanks to the bike of Daniel Sanders and the car of Orlando Terranova. The Australian only required one hundred kilometres to grab his third stage win on the Dakar, due to the interruption in hostilities (see Focus), with a time that allowed him to climb onto the provisional podium and leapfrog Adrien Van Beveren in the general standings. Sanders did not, however, trouble Sam Sunderland, his GasGas team-mate also decked out in red, who sits on top of the bike category classification with a lead of 2’39’’ over Matthias Walkner at the rest day. In the quad race, Aleksandr Maksimov won his first special on the Dakar by just 9 seconds, a margin which has not prevented another Alexandre, namely Giroud, from retaining the lead in the general rankings at the midway point. In the car category, Nasser Al-Attiyah did what was strictly necessary (with a 10th placed finish) to complete the first week of the rally with a comfortable lead. A nice surprise for the Qatari was to see Sébastien Loeb drop to 3rd in the race hierarchy after a major navigation error with significant consequences, which also benefitted Yazeed Al Rahji, now Nasser’s closest pursuer, if a fifty-minute gap can be described as close… At the same time, the performance of the day came from Terranova, who, in his resplendently red BRX Hunter, achieved the best time at the finishing line. The Argentinean reacquainted himself with victory, a flavour he had not tasted on the Dakar since 2015 in his native
land… which feels like another lifetime! In the lightweight prototype race, his victory was not a surprise, but the manner in which Seth Quintero achieved stage win number six was: without his brakes for half of the special! Nevertheless, the American’s demonstration left “Chaleco” López indifferent: the Chilean will rest up in Riyadh with a lead of more than twenty minutes over his South Racing team-mate Sebastian Eriksson. Brazilian Rodrigo Luppi de Oliveira was not expecting that much from his first participation in the SSV category but will also sleep contentedly with a 6-minute advantage in the general rankings over Austin Jones. The stage win went to Marek Goczał who grabbed his third success of the week and has the firm intention of further improving his statistics when racing resumes. Lastly, Dmitry Sotnikov should receive hearty congratulations at the halfway point from his boss at Kamaz: he leads an entirely Russian blue podium in the truck race as he prepares to relax in Riyadh.
PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY
With the desire to start a technological revolution on the Dakar, Audi has left itself exposed to thrills and spills in Saudi Arabia. Indeed, the twists and turns encountered by the three RS Q e-tron models enrolled at the start have not failed to send shivers of all kinds down the spine of Sven Quandt, the project’s maestro. With Peterhansel out of the reckoning following a mechanical problem and Sainz no longer in with a shout due to navigational mistakes, hopes of the title have been dashed, but his three virtuosos have endeavoured to also provide him with more positive sensations. Following victory by “El Matador” on stage 3, the first on the Dakar by an alternatively powered vehicle, it is now the turn of Mattias Ekström to shine for the four-ring brand. The many times DTM champion and world rally-cross champion achieved the second-best time on the special in Riyadh, missing out on catching Terranova by just 1’06’’. The German driver, taking part in his second Dakar after an aborted attempt in the T3 class last year (with an early exit on stage 7), gave proof, if need be, that his boss did not simply choose him for the team in order to have a flag-bearer from the brand’s native country.
A CRUSHING BLOW
On the Dakar, everything can change in a few seconds and Manuel Andújar sadly learned this lesson after
only 11 km of the sixth special. The title holder drove through a rut left by one of his car or truck race colleagues the day before and fell from his machine. The Argentinean, who occupied third place in the general rankings before tackling this stage, injured his leg and also damaged his quad. Though gritting your teeth and bearing it is a possibility after simply receiving an injury, when your vehicle is damaged and irreparable, even with the greatest of will, there is nothing to be done about it… After three stage victories, Andújar has been forced to pack up and go home. The unforgiving world of rally-raids spares nobody, not even the elite competitors.
STAT OF THE DAY: 33
Since the sizeable time penalties that have put him out of the reckoning for overall victory following mechanical problems he encountered on day three of the rally, Seth Quintero has produced a series of faultless performances on each special. The youngest winner in the history of the Dakar seems to be head and shoulders above the rest this year and now boasts six stage wins, as well as an improvement in his position in the FIA world rally-raid championship for the T3 class (see “W2RC”). To get an idea of the Californian’s potential, one need only compare his time on the last portion of the day, measuring 44 km, with that of the stage winner in the car category, Orlando Terranova… And – wait for it – on this sandy and technical section, Quintero valiantly rivalled the Argentinean, with less than a minute between them: 32’41’’ and 31’46’’ respectively. The Red Bull driver’s average speed was therefore 80.78 km/h on this section. Admittedly, that is not as quick as Sébastien Loeb, the fastest driver on the portion with an average speed of 90.67 km/h, but it is better than Nasser Al-Attiyah, who took it at a nice and easy 79.4 km/h. W2RC : Al Rajhi in pursuit Yazeed Al Rajhi (Toyota Overdrive) not only climbed into second place in the general rankings of the Dakar, but this performance could prove valuable to him right up to the final at the Rallye du Maroc, because through finishing as the highest placed driver enrolled in the W2RC he gained 5 points, allowing him to close in on Loeb (Prodrive), who went empty-handed today. His team-mate Nani Roma, out of the reckoning for the title in Jeddah, can look further ahead and now focus on his consistency until the end of the season. By pocketing 4 points today, he in turn closes in on the Saudi driver. Al-Attiyah remains in the lead with a total of 20 points, in front of Loeb on 18 points, Al Rajhi on 14 points and Roma on 12 points. The match between the European drivers at Prodrive and the Middle Eastern drivers at Toyota Gazoo Racing and Toyota Overdrive seems well underway. In the T3 class, Seth Quintero (Red Bull) continues his fine harvest. His 25 points have all been gathered in chunks of 5 which is synonymous with victory! However, his off day at the beginning of the race allows “Chaleco” López (EKS South Racing) to remain within just 3 points, thanks to his consistency. Cristina Gutiérrez is closing in on their struggle by grabbing 4 points thanks to 2nd place today, whilst Marco Carrara and Fernando Alvarez scored their first points. In the T4 class, Marek Goczał (CobantEnergylandia Rally Team) continues to collect the points with a second batch of 5, but Rodrigo Luppi de Oliveira (South Racing Can-Am) stays in the overall lead with 20 points more than Marek’s brother, Michał Goczał, and Austin Jones (Can-Am Factory South Racing). In the truck category, Martin Macík (Big Shock Racing) has the highest score in all the categories together with a total of 27 points out of 30 available! Kees Koolen (Project 2030) enhanced his position by finishing 2nd in the category and now totals 19 points, sandwiched in between Macík and the other Big Shock Racing driver, Martin Šoltys and his 14 points.
THE MAKINGS OF A CLASSIC
The race hierarchy is seriously starting to take shape on the Dakar Classic at the half-way point. The podium in the provisional overall classification remains unchanged on the eve of the rest day and a battle has emerged between the consistency specialists: the Spanish experts of the RumboZero team in their Mercedes Class G, led by Jesús Fuster Pliego with 120 points, and Serge Mogno in his HDJ 80, almost tying with 119 points. We can no longer speak of beginner’s luck for the French crew for whom this is a first in consistency. Florent Drulhon, an IT consultant in charge of navigation and consistency is purely self-taught. For his first motorsport competition, he is spookily reminiscent of the profile of the co-pilot who won alongside Marc Douton in 2021. Emilien Etienne, who has recently become a father, is no longer alongside the title holder this year, withheld by his paternal obligations but also by a new position with Dassault, the French flagship aerospace technology group company. He is not an IT consultant, but an engineer and was, according to the driver who triumphed on the last edition, the reason for their success, someone described, with the utmost respect, as “having a brain wired differently to the rest of us,” by Marc Douton, who did not try to play the big man on arrival in Jeddah. On the Dakar Classic, there is no point showing off your muscle, it all seems to be in the head.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
Marek Goczal: “We will push until the last kilometre” The Polish driver won his 3rd stage of the year in the SSV category, against two for his brother Michał. Thenext generation is already ready, with his son already present to learn about the rally! “Today, we were pushing a lot and hopefully we can make up the lost time we have overall. It’s quite a lot so it might be difficult, but now we’re also planning to have fun and win the stages. We don’t have any option now. We have to push to the last day at our maximum. As our tradition says in our family, we will push until the last kilometre, so hopefully we will make the time up. If we get a little bit of good luck, then I hope we’ll win them all. We’re doing well I think mainly because we did our homework. We really put in the work before this Dakar. We did the testing with almost thirty thousand kilometres in the Can-Ams. We tested the suspension and the tyres, so I think it’s all coming from our preparation”.
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