It seemed a concertina was at play as Spain’s Carlos Sainz dominated Thursday’s sixth stage of Dakar 2018, leading from the start as he opened up a four minute lead to win from Peugeot teammate and overall leader, Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel as the race crossed into the Bolivia and the extreme altitudes of the Andes.
Peterhansel drove a measured day to fend off the chasing pack headed by Toyota Hilux duo, Qatari Nasser Al Attiyah and South African Dakar hero Giniel de Villiers, while Cyril Despres’ Peugeot ended fifth from Mini driver, Finn Mikko Hirvonen and the third Toyota of Martin Ten Brinke. Argentine driver and SA navigator Lucio Alvares and Rob Howie’s Toyota, Martin Prokop’s Ford F150 and Jakub Przygonski’s Mini closed off the top ten.
The concertina effect came in the overall results as the day’s result served to close up the intra team rivalry between the Peugeots up front as second overall Sainz narrowed the gap to overall race leader Peterhansel down to 16 minutes 25 seconds, while the Toyotas also closed in on each other, with ten Brinke, Al Attiyah and de Villiers now separated by all of fifteen minutes in the tussle for the final podium step.
South African duo Hennie de Klerk and Gerhard Schutte came in 26th in class in the TreasuryOne Amarok to move up to 32nd overall among the cars. The Pretoria pair spent the day embroiled in a battle for the rookie race lead with Boris Vaculík’s Ford, where they consolidated their strong second in the debutants battle, 12 minutes behind the Polish driver on Thursday evening.
The motorcycles produced a cracking stage as Frenchman Antoine Meo powered his KTM to the win, 30 seconds clear of a provisional dead heat for second between Honda-mounted Argentine Kevin Benavides and KTM duo Toby Price and Matthias Walkner following a dogfight throughout the afternoon. Xavier de Soutrait was provisionally fifth for Yamaha ahead of van Beveren, Barreda and Guell, while Benavides moved into a slender 1 minute 50 second overall lead over van Beveren, who sat a further minute clear of Walkner, de Soultrait, Barreda and Price.
South African David Thomas finished 58th, Donavan van de Langeberg 64th, Willem du Toit 66th and Gerrie van der Byl 101st, with Thomas now 49th overall, van de Langeberg 64th, du Tout 65th and van der Byl 101st. Sadly Wessel Bosman opted not to continue this morning following a brave effort toward the back of the bike field.
Argentine youngster Jeremias González Ferioli took his first quad victory of Dakar 2018, beating countrymen Pablo Copetti and Nelson Sanabria while overall leader Ignacio Casale ended fourth to increase his lead in the general standings. Another Argentine, Federico Villagra meanwhile won his second truck stage of Dakar 2018 with a two minute victory to consolidate his second overall behind Russian Edoard Nikoaiev.
Thursday’s bike and quad route was shortened to start across the border as Dakar 2018 headed away from the coastal dunes of Peru up into the Bolivian Andes, with the whole of today’s stage run at altitudes peaking out at 4700 metres along the shores of Lake Titicaca and into Bolivia en route to La Paz, where Dakar takes its traditional rest day on Friday.