Audi’s Stéphane Peterhansel is out of this year’s Dakar Rally following a crash on the sixth stage which injured his navigator Edouard Boulanger.
The incident occurred before the fifth waypoint of the 357km test from Ha’il to Riyadh, with Boulanger airlifted to the nearby Buraydah hospital after complaining of back pain.
Peterhansel and Boulanger’s team-mate Carlos Sainz also crashed at the same point of the stage and is understood to be waiting on the team’s assistance truck to see if he and navigator Lucas Cruz can continue in the rally.
Also hitting strife was Overdrive Racing’s Yazeed Al Rajhi and Dirk von Zitzewitz, whose Toyota Hilux stopped just after the 216km marker.
All three crews had been in the running for the stage win which, until Audi’s misfortune, had been a closely fought contest with the rally leader, Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiyah.
The mainly sandy stage was shortened by the event organizer on Thursday, due to the flooding at the Al Duwadimi bivouac, meaning a long liaison to Riyadh, the location of the rest day on Monday.
Al-Attiyah initially led Peterhansel by just five seconds after the first waypoint at 31km, before the Audi moved ahead by eight seconds at the second.
The gap ebbed and flowed between the pair, but Peterhansel eventually opened up a margin of over a minute from Al-Attiyah who seemed content to settle for second place and extend his overall advantage.
Sainz was also in the mix early on, just 13s adrift at the first waypoint, but he dropped back as the stage wore on, slipping to over three minutes behind his team-mate before his crash.
An Audi source told DirtFish that the damage to Sainz’s car was far more severe than Peterhansel’s.
The closest non-Audi challenger was Al Rajhi, who maintained strong pace in his Hilux T1+ to run a comfortable third fastest before a broken wheel hub halted him after the 200km point.
That allowed Bahrain Raid Xtreme’s Sébastien Loeb and Fabian Lurquin to claim the second fastest time, having taken a careful approach to the stage in their Hunter T1+. The French duo finished 3m22s adrift of the rally leader at the end, despite suffering a broken differential.
Third quickest was Al-Attiyah’s TGR team-mate Henk Lategan, who now lies second in the overall classification – albeit over an hour behind the defending winner. The double South African Rally-Raid champion, who donated a driveshaft to the stricken Al Rajhi, was embroiled in a stage-long squabble with GCK Motorsport’s Guerlain Chicherit, with the pair evenly matched across the 357km test.
Chicherit, who endured a day of “hell” on stage five due to the constant impacts on the broken dunes and camel grass, was around 30s clear of Lategan before managing to open up a lead of over a minute.
But Lategan responded well in the final section to overhaul the Hunter T1+ and end up 8m52 behind Al-Attiyah at the finish.
Vaidotas Zala enjoyed another relatively calm day to finish fifth, while Dakar debutant Lucas Moraes continued his excellent form this year by setting the seventh fastest time in his Overdrive Racing Toyota Hilux.
The third RS Q e-tron E2 of Mattias Ekström was spared of the apparent Audi curse and enjoyed a relatively trouble-free stage to set the sixth quickest time. He and navigator Emil Bergkvist fought closely with Moraes and the Century Factory Racing Team CR6 of Mathieu Serradori, eventually coming home just under 11 minutes shy of Al-Attiyah.
In the overall classification, Al-Attiyah now has a huge lead of over an hour from his team-mate Lategan, while the impressive Moraes is third.
Giniel de Villiers makes it a Toyota clean sweep of the top four in the third TGR Hilux, with Ekström the only Audi left in the reckoning, fifth.
Despite his troubles earlier in the week, Loeb is sixth overall, 1h57m10s adrift of Al-Attiyah. Romain Dumas and Max Delfino lie seventh in their Rebellion Racing Toyota Hilux, just 16 minutes back from Loeb and only 23s clear of Martin Prokop’s Orlen Benzina Ford.Brian Baragwanath and Wei Han round out the top 10 overall.
Further down, Chicherit lies 15th, with Kuba Przygónski 17th in his X-raid Mini JCW Rally.
Dakar Rally classification after Stage 6:
1 Nasser Al-Attiyah/Mathieu Baumel (Toyota) 24hr00m48s
2 Henk Lategan/Brett Cummings (Toyota) +1h06m50s
3 Lucas Moraes/Timo Gottschalk (Overdrive Toyota) +1h13m19s
4 Giniel de Villiers/Dennis Murphy (Toyota) +1h44m38s
5 Mattias Ekström/Emil Bergkvist (Audi) +1h46m55s
6 Sébastien Loeb/Fabian Lurquin (Bahrain Raid Xtreme) +1h57m10s
7 Romain Dumas/Max Delfino (Rebellion Toyota) +2h13m07s
8 Martin Prokop/Viktor Chytka (Orlen Ford) +2h13m30s
9 Brian Baragwanath/Leonard Cremer (Century) +2h20m33s
10 Wei Han/Ma Li (SMG) +2h49m27s
De Mevius pips Jones to remain in charge of T3
The battle at the top of the T3 Lightweight Prototype standings remains relatively close as GRally Team’s Guillaume de Mevius extended his lead with another stage victory.
De Mevius emerged 1m39s quicker than his nearest rival in the general classification, Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA’s Austin Jones, who is just under nine minutes adrift overall.
X-raid Yamaha driver Ignacio Casale again showed impressive speed in his YXZ 1000 Turbo R by setting the fourth quickest time. The Chilean former Quad rider had been the fastest in the stage at the first and fifth waypoints and had only been 18s shy of De Mevius before dropping two minutes at the end.
Sandwiching Casale were two more Red Bull Off-Road drivers, with Seth Quintero setting the third quickest time to consolidate his third place overall, while Mitch Guthrie Jr was fifth.
Off the podium in the overall standings, Francisco Chaleco López Contardo is fourth after dropping another five minutes to De Mevius, while Red Bull Can-Am Factory Team colleague Cristina Gutiérrez Herrero is fifth.
Marek leads Michał for Goczał one-two in T4
Safe for a 10-minute stoppage for 18 year-old Eryk, the Goczał family would have swept all three podium positions in the sixth stage, as Marek beat his brother Michał by 2m26s.
Marek’s son, Eryk, led the way early on as the trio of Energyland Rally Team Can-Ams headed the nearest challenger from South Racing, Gerard Farres Guell.
A problem for Eryk dropped him over 10 minutes before the 207km point, meaning he could only manage seventh at the finish.
Farres Guell posted the third quickest time, ahead of Rodrigo Luppi de Oliveira, who continues to lead overall by 20 minutes from Red Bull Can-Am Factory Team’s Rokas Baciuška.