HAIL, Saudi Arabia: Defending champion Carlos Sainz steered his Mini to victory in Friday’s sixth stage of the Dakar Rally as French teammate Stephane Peterhansel maintained his stranglehold on the lead of motorsport’s most gruelling rally.
The Spaniard, a three-time Dakar winner whose son Carlos Jr races for Ferrari in Formula One, timed 3hr 38min 27sec over the special, finishing 4:03 ahead of Saudi Toyota driver Yazeed al-Rajhi for his second stage win this year.
Nasser al-Attiyah was third, just ahead of France’s Peterhansel, the 13-time Dakar champion who is now leading the Qatari by 5:53 in the overall standings, with Sainz third at 40:39.
Despite the victory, Sainz was hard on himself and co-driver Lucas Cruz, saying he thought they could have “done a better job”.
“On one day, I lost thirty minutes, on another 30 minutes too and on another day six minutes, so more than an hour in all,” he said.
“I’m not so happy with Lucas and myself, I’m not so happy with how we’ve been doing.
“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.”
The course between Al-Qaisumah and Ha’il was shortened by 100km to 348km after the delayed arrivals of competitors following Thursday’s stage.
- Hat-trick for Barreda -
In the motorbike category, Spain’s Joan Barreda claimed a third stage win this year.
The HRC rider clocked 3hr 45min 27sec, finishing just 13 seconds in front of the Yamaha ridden by Botswanan Ross Branch and 0.53 ahead of Australian Daniel Sanders’ KTM.
“I’m really happy because up to now I’ve kept safe with the bike, had no crashes and I’m feeling really strong, so I’ll try to carry on next week like this,” said Barreda.
Two-time champion Toby Price of Australia (KTM) took the lead in the overall standings, 2:16 ahead of Honda rider Kevin Benavides, the Argentinian who suffered a broken nose and injured ankle in a crash on Thursday’s stage which he still won.
Overnight leader Xavier de Soultrait fell to fifth, while defending champion Ricky Brabec of the United States is down in 13th, 19:56 off Price’s leading time.
Price, who won the Dakar in 2016 and 2019, said all the riders had benefitted from a shortened stage going into a rest day.
“These two boys behind me, they led out all day and were absolutely on fire, the pace was crazy,” he said.
“It’s been a mixed bag of everything really, so it’s been up and down everywhere. All in all, we’re still in the fight, we’re still there in the race.”
Price added that “anything can happen, there’s a long way to go”.
“Everything is good and hopefully the bike will get us through the second week.”