Carlos Sainz bounced back from his early Dakar Rally struggles to win the final stage before the rest day, while Sébastien Loeb’s hopes took another blow after breaking a suspension arm.
X-raid Mini JCW driver Sainz completed the Al Qaisumah-Ha’il stage having started ninth on the road following another tough day on Thursday, where he and co-driver Lucas Cruz lost another half an hour, in a time of three hours and 38 minutes.
Sainz took over seven minutes out of team-mate and rally leader Stéphane Peterhansel, although the Frenchman alongside Edouard Boulanger remain at the top of the overall standings.
Following an announcement on Thursday evening by the event organizers, the ASO, the original 384-mile – 303.2 miles timed – was reduced by 62 miles after a ‘significant number’ experienced navigation issues during stage five.
The stage start was also pushed back by an hour-and-a-half and cut out one waypoint, between 147 miles and 218 miles.
Sainz came out of the blocks in fine style for the stage – described by Dakar race director as ‘100% sand, with some dunes’ – and quickly built a healthy margin over the rest of the field.
Sainz’s closest challenger during the test was Overdrive Racing’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi.
The Saudi driver has had a troublesome Dakar so far, having shipped over 20 minutes on the opening stage on Sunday before encountering navigational issues on stages three and five. A mechanical problem on stage four cost the Toyota Hilux driver – and co-driver Dirk von Ziztewitz – over 40 minutes.
Despite these setbacks, Al-Rajhi showed impressive pace in stage six and was just 35 seconds adrift of Sainz at the first waypoint before moving ahead of Peterhansel at the halfway marker.
Al-Rajhi, who started the day 33rd in the overall classification, finished just 4m03s behind stage winner Sainz.
Third on the stage was Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiyah, who regained time on Peterhansel in the final two sections of the stage.
Al-Attiyah, co-driven by Mathieu Baumel, beat Peterhansel’s Mini by 18 seconds to marginally reduce the deficit ahead of the rest day.
Outside of the top four, the battle was intense, with Jakub Przygónski taking the fifth fastest time in his Toyota Hilux ahead of Century Racing’s Brian Baragwanath.
Baragwanath started the stage second on the road behind stage five winner Giniel de Villiers. De Villiers struggled as the road opener and lost over 20 minutes to Sainz, but Baragwanath produced another strong performance in his CR6, albeit 19 minutes off the fastest time.
For Loeb and Daniel Elena, it was another day to forget on the Dakar; their initial charge halted by a broken suspension arm shortly before the second waypoint, situated 67 miles into the stage.
Loeb has endured a difficult return to the Dakar after missing last year’s event. Three punctures on Thursday fifth stage came after receiving a five-minute penalty for exceeding the speed limit in a controlled zone.
His Hunter BRX1 remains in the stage, with the nine-time WRC champion awaiting assistance from his Prodrive-run team.
Taking up the role of team leader at Bahrain Raid Xtreme in the wake of Loeb’s troubles, Nani Roma set the eighth quickest time.
Yazir Seaidan and Mathieu Serradori had been in the hunt for a top five stage time, but both hit trouble in the final sections. Seaidan dropped 17 minutes after the penultimate waypoint while Serradori lost a wheel on the stage before the finish and are awaiting assistance.
After early rally troubles himself, former bike racer Cyril Desprès was ninth-quickest, alongside co-driver and adventurer Mike Horn in their Abu Dhabi Racing Peugeot 3008DKR. They finished ahead of X-raid Team’s Vladimir Vasilyev and Christian Lavieielle’s Optimus.
Peterhansel continues to lead the rally overall, 5m53s ahead of Al-Attiyah, while Sainz has reduced the deficit to Peterhansel to a fraction over 40 minutes.
Przygónski has consolidated his fourth place ahead of Roma and Baragwanath, with Vladimir Vasilyev’s X-raid Mini moving ahead of Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi for seventh.
Behind Vasilyev, de Villiers is ninth with Martin Prokop completing the top 10 in his privateer Ford Raptor RS
The competitors will now have a day off in Ha’il before the second half of the Dakar continues with Sunday’s seventh stage from the ancient city to Sakaka.
Lopez Contardo loses lead to Domzala in SSV
Erstwhile SSV leader Francisco Lopez Contardo’s hopes of repeating his 2019 victory took a serious blow during the sixth stage as the South Racing Can-Am driver ground to a halt with mechanical problems after 138 miles.
The Chilean has lost more than an hour, with Aron Domzala assuming the overall lead.
Monster Energy Can-Am driver Domzala was fifth quickest on the stage but lost nearly two minutes to team-mate Austin Jones, who he leads by a slender 40 seconds.
T3 class leader Seth Quintero took his first outright stage win of the Dakar in his Red Bull Off-Road Junior OT3, becoming the youngest competitor to do so in the event’s history.
Quintero made the most of yet more trouble for team-mate Cristina Gutierrez, who lost 28 minutes at the third waypoint.
Gutierrez does, however, remain second in the T3 Lightweight Prototype class, ahead of Jean-Luc Pisson’s PH Sport Zephyr.
Stage 6 (Al Qaisumah – Ha’il) result
1 Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz (X-raid Mini JCW) 3h38m27s
2 Yazeed Al-Rajhi/Dirk von Zitzewitz (Overdrive Racing Toyota) +4m03s
3 Nasser Al-Attiyah/Mathieu Baumel (Toyota Gazoo Racing) +7m16s
4 Stéphane Peterhansel/Edouard Boulanger (X-raid Mini JCW) +7m34s
5 Jakub Przygónski/Timo Gottschalk (Overdrive Racing Toyota) +14m21s
6 Brian Baragwanath/Taye Perry (Century Racing) +19m16s
7 Nani Roma/Alex Winocq (Bahrain Raid Xtreme Hunter) +19m33s
8 Giniel de Villiers/Alex Haro Bravo (Toyota Gazoo Racing) +22m20s
9 Cyril Desprès/Mike Horn (Abu Dhabi Racing Peugeot) +25m45s
10 Vladimir Vasilyev/Dmitro Tsyro (X-raid Team) +26m11s
Overall classification after Stage 6
1 Peterhansel/Boulanger (X-raid Mini JCW) 22h14m03s
2 Al-Attiyah/Baumel (Toyota Gazoo Racing) +5m53s
3 Sainz/Cruz (X-raid Mini JCW) +40m39s
4 Przygónski/Gottschalk (Overdrive Racing Toyota) +1h11m36s
5 Roma/Winocq (Bahrain Raid Xtreme Hunter) +1h36m55s
6 Baragwanath/Perry (Century Racing) +1h50m32s
7 Vasilyev/Tsyro (X-raid Team) +2h05m47s
8 Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi/Xavier Panseri (Abu Dhabi Racing Peugeot) +2h07m21s
9 de Villiers/Haro Bravo (Toyota Gazoo Racing) +2h26m12s
10 Martin Prokop/Viktor Chytka (Orlen Team Ford) +2h29m07s