Stephane Peterhansel has won Stage 6 of the Dakar Rally in Cars but X-raid John Cooper Works team-mate Carlos Sainz edged further clear at the top of the overall classification.
Sainz opened the road on the sandy 477km special from Ha’il to Riyadh but kept touch with Peterhansel and even led the Frenchman, although by only two seconds, at one waypoint.
In the end, it was Peterhansel by 1:33s and Sainz second in the other X-raid buggy but, more importantly, the latter was almost two minutes faster than Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiyah.
As such, the 2018 Dakar champion grew his lead over the 2019 champion to 7:48s at the halfway mark of the 2020 event.
“I don’t know what is happening. Probably I lost a little bit of time on the last part,” said Sainz.
“Today I think opening the road again wasn’t easy so I’m happy to arrive here in this position.
“Some parts were very fast, there were some dunes, some crossing of dunes, fast crossing of dunes, with a little bit of off-piste sometimes and then sometimes sandy tracks.
“It was difficult. I need the rest day now.”
Peterhansel, who is third overall at 16:20s behind Sainz, said that the concentration was the most difficult part of the day.
“Today was a long stage, 477km, so it’s long,” he recounted.
“It was fast but sometimes we crossed some dunes, so it was slow, fast, slow, fast… But the biggest problem for me is that with these high speeds you need to be really concentrated a lot.
“You are not physically tired but it’s more mentally tiring. When we are at really high speed we need to be really focused.”
Al-Attiyah, who was third for the stage, believes that his Hilux is not a match for the JCW buggies in the terrain.
“I am disappointed because we are really going at the maximum and the Mini buggy is too fast compared to a 4×4,” he said.
“But what can we do? This is a new Dakar and I think we need to do a really good job.
“We’ve finished the first week without any problems and I’m quite happy. We’ll see next week.
“It will be tougher. I think there will be more dunes, but it’s still a long way.”
Yazeed Al Rajhi (Overdrive Toyota) was once again the best of the rest to retain fourth overall, one position ahead of Orlando Terranova (X-raid Mini 4×4).
Mathieu Serradori (SRT Century) and Giniel De Villiers (Toyota Gazoo Racing) continue to hold down sixth and seventh for the event, while Fernando Alonso (Toyota Gazoo Racing) was sixth on the stage and crept up two positions to 16th overall.
There will be a new champion in Trucks after Eduard Nikolaev, who only managed to complete Stage 5 in the early hours of the following morning, finally relented due to another mechanical drama, 33km into Stage 6.
A Kamaz driver still leads, however, with Andrey Karginov winning the stage from team-mate Anton Shibalov, who remains second overall.
Simon Vitse won the Quads stage and moved to second overall, albeit 38:14s behind Ignacio Casale, while Francisco Lopez Contardo leads in SSV.
Rodney Faggotter (Yamaha) climbed four positions to 13th, Phillip Wilson (KTM) is 63rd, Ben Young (KTM) is 66th, Trevor Colin Wilson (Husqvarna) occupies 88th, and Matthew Tisdall (KTM) continues to round out what is now a 107-bike field.
Saturday (local time) is a rest day before a massive 546km special from Riyadh to Wadi Al Dawasir.
General classification: Cars (Top 10)
|4||Yazeed Al Rajhi||KSA||Toyota||+0:36:48|
|7||Giniel De Villiers||RSA||Toyota||+0:55:41|
|8||Bernhard ten Brinke||NED||Toyota||+1:12:58|