Words by Afzal Rawuther
Carlos Sainz had a superlative day, beating rally leader and teammate Stephane Peterhansel by four minutes and six seconds to claim victory in stage six of of Dakar2018. At an altitude of over 4000 meters above sea level, the last Peruvain stage of the Dakar presented its own unique challenges. The timed section of the stage was 313 kilometers and was broken in two separated by a 238km neutralized zone. Sainz completed the first 118km section two minutes ahead of his teammate and went on to double his lead by the end of the day. However, 13-time Dakar champion Peterhansel is still 27 minutes ahead of Sainz in the general classification and even though he has just won one stage so far, he continues to hold a sizeable lead. Sainz is followed by the Toyotas of Bernhard ten Brinke, Nasser Al-Attiyah and Giniel de Villiers. ten Brinke is an hour and twenty one minutes down on Peterhansel. X-raid driver Yazeed al-Rajhi survived a scare as his Mini was almost swept into the ocean when he was driving on the beachfront. The co-driver Timo Gottschalk was seen trying to use a rope to keep the Mini from being pulled in by the waves.
Poor weather played spoilsport and the first 119 km of the stage had to be cancelled. The remaining 194km of the stage began near Lake Titicaca and was a closely fought contest. Xavier de Soultrait was leading for the first two waypoints with a lead of over two and a half minutes before Toby Price snatched away the lead. However, it was Antoine Meo who finished the stage first – with a lead of 30 seconds. Toby Price and Benavides finished with identical times and Benavides has now become the overall leader with van Beveren who held a slender one minute lead after stage five finishing 3 min 27sec off the pace. Yamaha’s van Beveren is now one minute 57 seconds behind Benavides in the general classification. Walkner still trails the duo in third although he was slightly faster than van Beveren in the stage. de Soultrait is now fourth overall followed by Joan Barreda Bort closing out the top five.
In the quad class, Jeremias Gonzalez and Pablo Coletti completed an Argentinian one-two with Gonzalez leading by 1min 50sec. Leader Ignacio Casale finished third , three minutes slower than Gonzalez but still managed to extend his overall lead to 41 minutes over Alexis Hernandez(second in the overall rankings) who finished fourth in the stage.
In the SxS category, Patrice Garrouste won the stage with a lead of two minutes and twnty nine seconds over overall leader Reinaldo Varela. However, Garrouste still trails Reinaldo by one hour and twenty four minutes. Juan Carlos Uribe Ramos is in second, ahead of Garrouste and trails Reinaldo by 32 minutes in the general classification.
The trucks category saw an extremely close battle for first position, with Federico Villagra ultimately winning the stage two minutes and fourty six seconds ahead of closest rival Martin Kolomy. Ton Van Genugten of Iveco was separated from Kolomy by only twelve seconds. In the general classification however, the leader Eduard Nikolaev even after finishing sixth, holds a lead of 52 minutes over Federico Villagra.
The lone Indian rider left in the Dakar CS Santosh had a strong day at the Dakar, posting the 38th fastest time of the day, 14min 57sec down on the stage winner. Despite a great showing, 34-year old CS Santosh has actually dropped a place to 52nd in the overall classification. His teammate from Hero MotoSports Oriol Mena finished the day 22nd to end up 20th overall after stage six. The only remaining Sherco-TVS rider, Joan Pedrero finished the stage 16th to finish 15th overall. The participants now have a rest day today before they move to the next leg of the Dakar.