Another day in South America on the Dakar Rally saw another long stage, this time 418km heading north in the Atacama Desert, passing though rocky trails, across the driest place on earth and ending with a trip down a wall of sand before arriving at the overnight campsite.
The bikes saw another Marc Coma and Cyril Despres duel. Despres jumped out to an early lead after yesterday’s stage winner Francisco Lopez took the wrong route, with several other lead riders, including David Fretigne, Pal Anders Ullevalseter and Coma following the Chilean and losing time.
Despres, however, did not follow, and by the first checkpoint the Frenchman had a 1:44 lead over Olivier Pain, with Lopez Contardo falling 14 minutes behind though Coma only lost two minutes to the overall leader.
That was only a minor problem for Coma, who reeled in Despres’ stage lead and had pulled out a forty second lead less than 100km later. From there there was no looking back for Coma (though the all too common timing failure meant the domination was temporarily silent). He lead by over three minutes at the second checkpoint, and as Despres slowed – the timing showing Lopez Contardo and Helder Rodrigues making up six and four minutes respectively on the KTM rider.
By the end of the stage, when timing picked Coma up again, he was ten minutes ahead of Despres, with Rodrigues and Lopez Contardo recovering to third and fourth to hold onto their overall positions, although now with Marc Coma in fourth a little over an hour behind Despres.
Sadly, however, today was another day when the stage winners were overshadowed by those who have been forced to retire from the rally, with the news that Italian privateer Luca Manca had suffered severe injuries after crashing in the opening kilometres of the stage.
Manca, who helped Marc Coma yesterday, giving him his rear tyre after the Spaniard’s failed, was taken straight to a local hospital, rather than the campsite, with plans to transfer him a unit in Santiago, the Chilean capital. His condition is described as serious and life threatening.
In the cars it was a happier day, though not without it’s accidents as VW driver Mauricio Neves rolled his Race Touareg 2 out of the rally.
While Robby Gordon Motorsport driver Robert Baldwin led the stage early on, it was Stephane Peterhansel who led much of the stage. Having lost over two hours yesterday with a driveshaft problem that dropped him out of the overall, the BMW driver had nothing to lose, and was back at the head of the stage, winning his 53rd stage of his Dakar career, extending his record.
He led home the customary trail of VWs, with Carlos Sainz, Mark Miller and Nasser Al-Attiyah (Giniel de Villers in the remaining VW finishing the stage eighth fastest) with Russian Leonid Novitskiy in another X-Raid BMW finishing fifth.
Robby Gordon suffered another day of losing ground to the leaders, ending the stage 49 minutes behind, and slipping to sixth overall.
In the truck race it was another day of Kamaz domination, as Vladimir Chagin took his fifth stage win of the year ahead of teammates Firdaus Kabirov and Ilgizar Mardeev, the Russian winning his 52nd Dakar stage as he and Peterhansel battle for the record.
Overall the stage saw Chagin, further extend his overall lead over Kabirov to 38:11.
Stage Six Results
1. Marc Coma (KTM) 4h46:59
2. Cyril Despres (KTM) +0h10:34
3. Helder Rodrigues (Yamaha) +0h10:38
4. Francisco Lopez Contardo (Aprilia) +0h15:12
5. Pal Anders Ullevalseter (KTM) +0h17:09
1. Stephane Peterhansel (BMW) 4h23:55
2. Carlos Sainz (VW) +0h00:47
3. Mark Miller (VW) +0h08:55
4. Nasser Al-Attiyah (VW) +0h11:34
5. Leonid Novitskiy (BMW) +0h17:32
1. Marcos Patronelli (Yamaha) 5h58:50
2. Alejandro Patronelli (Yamaha) +0h18:10
3. Jorge Miguel Santamarina (Can-AM) +0h25:27
4. Rafal Sonik (Yamaha) +0h29:16
5. Juan Manuel Gonzalez (Yamaha) +0h46:38
1. Vladimir Chagin (Kamaz) 4h55:22
2. Firdaus Kabirov(Kamaz) +0h12:03
3. Ilgizar Mardeev (Kamaz) +0h31:07
4. Marcel Van Vliet (Ginaf) +0h59:14
5. Martin Macik (Liaz) +1h09:06
Overall Standings after Stage Six
1. Cyril Despres (KTM) 21h35:59
2. Francisco Lopes Contardo (Aprilia) 0h42:15
3. Helder Rodrigues (Yamaha) 0h44:05
4. Marc Coma (KTM) +1h06:21
5. Pal Anders Ullevalseter (KTM) +1h14:42
1. Carlos Sainz (VW) 20h35:33
2. Nasser Al-Attiyah (VW) +0h15:24
3. Mark Miller (VW) +0h17:47
4. Carlos Souza (Mitsubishi) +1h34:04
5. Krzysztof Holowczyc (Nissan ) +1h43:40
1. Marcos Patronelli (Yamaha) 26h46:52
2. Jorge Manuel Santamarina (Can-Am) +1h26:03
3. Juan Manuel Gonzalez (Yamaha) +1h53:51
4. Alejandro Patronelli (Yamaha) +2h25:55
5. Sebastian Halpern (Yamaha) +4h32:07
Trucks: (as of stage five)
1. Vladimir Chagin (Kamaz) 18h20:32
2. Firdaus Kabirov (Kamaz) +0h26:08
3. Marcel Van Vliet (Ginaf) +3h07:26
4. Ilgizar Mardeev (Kamaz) +3h41:12
5. Johan Elfrink (Mercedes) +4h06:14