Reigning champion Carlos Sainz rebounded strongly with a dominant win on Friday’s stage from Al Qaisumah to Hail. The Spaniard was the quickest driver at the first intermediate point and went on to open the gap over his pursuers who were not able to catch him. All in all, a fine performance from the Mini driver!
Having won his second stage of the week, the title-holder is third in the general standings, but trails the car category leader Stéphane Peterhansel by 40 minutes.
“Today the stage was more in the sand and on sandy tracks, so it was not so difficult for navigation, really. There were not many places where you could get it wrong, so everything was good. On one day I lost 30 minutes, on another day 30 minutes too and on another day 6 minutes, so more than an hour in all.
“I’m not so happy with Lucas 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 plateau with many tracks and secret way points 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 said.
Sainz, with his 38th stage victory in Hail in front of Saudi Yazeed Al-Rajhi, is also in the position of pursuer, but with a much heftier amount of time to make up, namely 40 minutes on the duo of Peterhansel and Nasser Al-Attiyah, who have been head and shoulders above the rest since the start in Jeddah.
As for Sébastien Loeb, he is definitively out of contention for victory after breaking a suspension arm at the beginning of the special.
Although he has lost all hopes of overall victory, the Saudi driver is still attacking with the goal of winning stages. Friday, he achieved the 2nd best time on the special, 4 minutes behind Sainz.
“We planned before the start to push today, and we did it well, everything was OK. We got lost at one place: we kept right when the point was on the left, so we went uphill, turned round and came back, but everything went well with us. We attacked to the maximum, we really pushed.
“For me it was an unlucky first week. We broke the gearbox and lost a lot of time, but we’re still continuing to enjoy the race and that's the most important thing. I think today is the best day for me. I did well on the stage today in Hail and I started my rally career in Hail in 2009," Al-Rajhi said.
Monster Energy Honda rider Joan Barreda is once again triumphant on completion of the sixth special. The HRC rider won for the third time this year, just 13 seconds in front of the Yahama ridden by Ross Branch and 53’’ ahead of Daniel Sanders’ KTM.
Ricky Brabec had gone slightly astray and had lost 3’38’’ to current stage leader Barreda after 265 km, pushing the title holder down into seventh position!
By finishing behind Xavier De Soultrait, Kevin Benavides, with an injured nose and ankle, has lost 1’06 to the Frenchman. Not everybody has finished the special yet, but this is already good news for the Husqvarna rider.
Dakar Rally 2021 reached its halfway point with the conclusion of stage six. In fact the stage was actually shortened by 100km and the start delayed by 1 hour and 30 minutes due to a significant number of competitors facing difficulties in finishing the previous stage.
Despite that, this stage saw a couple of close fights as well as a strong run of results from the Indian presence at the rally.