Friday’s sixth stage of the Dakar Rally has been shortened and the start time pushed back by the event organizers, the ASO.
The decision comes after a ‘significant number’ of crews struggled with navigation during stage five, most notably defending Dakar winner Carlos Sainz who lost another half an hour in his X-raid Mini JCW.
Stage six will run from Al Qaisumah to Ha’il, which will be the location of Saturday’s rest day, and was due to run for 406.9 miles – of which 301.3 miles were timed – westwards towards the Red Sea.
But this distance has been shortened by 62.1 miles in order to aid the crews’ Friday program, with a late finish into Ha’il likely.
The start time of the stage has also been put back by 90 minutes, allowing those crews arriving back at the bivouac late a chance to work on their vehicles before leaving Al Qaisumah in the morning.
In a statement, the ASO announced the changes to the Friday itinerary.
“Due to the difficulties encountered in finishing stage five by a significant number of competitors, the decision has been taken to delay the departure of the riders and crews from the bivouac in Al Qaisumah by one hour 30 minutes.
“The route of the special on stage six has therefore been shortened by one hundred kilometers in order to make the program less tough. However, the competitors will still have to tackle sand and dunes.
“Though navigational skills will again play a decisive role in the outcome of this special, the riders’ and drivers’ physical capacities will also be sorely tested, demanding a considerable effort from them.
“After that, they will fully deserve the rest day that will take place in Ha’il.”
Friday’s stage will be the first 100% sand test, with dunes on the agenda for the competitors.
Sainz’s X-raid Mini JCW team-mate Stéphane Peterhansel currently leads the car category by 6m11s over Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiyah, while South Racing’s Francisco Lopez Contardo holds a lead of more than 10 minutes from Aron Domzala in the SSV class.