Courtesy of Red Bull Desert Wings
Thursday, January 11
When you reach for glory at the Dakar Rally you have to stretch up high, 4,700 metres above sea level to be precise. As the race left Peru and transferred to Bolivia’s Altiplano we witnessed the first day of extreme altitude. While some competitors took the chance to soar up the general rankings others dropped like stones as the harsh conditions got the better of them.
Standing up to the altitude in the bike race was Antoine Méo (FRA) who recorded his first stage win of this Dakar. Red Bull KTM Factory Team rider Méo is back for his second attempt at the Dakar after a distinguished Enduro career. Today’s stage win has pushed the French rider up to 7th overall, just over 10 minutes behind new race leader Kevin Benavides (ARG).
“I thought to myself ‘now is my time to make the difference’ so I really pushed. I knew there was a risk that I could crash but this was one of those times when everything went well.” – Antoine Méo
Also putting in strong rides on the path to La Paz were Méo’s team-mates Toby Price (AUS) and Matthias Walkner (AUT). Former Dakar winner Price was third fastest on the stage to move to 6th overall while Walkner remains third overall and under three minutes behind Benavides.
“We know from previous years how much things can change in Bolivia and also we still have two marathon stages to ride. There are still some tricky days to come that’s for sure.” – Matthias Walkner
Fellow KTM rider Laia Sanz (ESP) is staying on course for her pre-race target with 18th place on the stage lifting her to 16th overall.
“I’m happy because I’m improving my position in the overall classification and this is what I need to do until the end.” – Laia Sanz
While today’s stage from Arequipa to La Paz was shortened for the bikes there were no such concessions made for the cars as they raced the entire 313km timed special. Carlos Sainz (ESP) won the stage with an exhibition of speed, but could not make too much of a dent in the overall lead of Peugeot team-mate Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA) which now stands at 27m10s over the Spaniard.
“There is still a lot of racing left, with stages that are 400 and 500 kilometres long, as well as the marathon stage.” – Carlos Sainz
Race leader Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA) opened the stage and put in yet another extremely professional performance to clock his category’s second quickest time.
“The main problem is altitude for the driver and for the engine. We lost a lot of power and we lost concentration – you know, the brain also works in slow motion, so it was a little bit complicated.” – Stéphane Peterhansel
The Peugeot 3008DKR Maxi of Cyril Despres (FRA) claimed the car class’s fifth fastest time. Meanwhile, Peterhansel was actually able to increase his advantage over chasing Toyota Gazoo Racing SA pair Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) and Giniel De Villiers (ZAF).
“It’s always good to have variation: some dunes, some stages like this with really fast rally roads, really very enjoyable to drive, but the dunes are also a different challenge and that’s also nice.” – Giniel De Villiers
There was no podium place for Ignacio Casale (CHI) in the quad contest on stage six but he was still upbeat in the La Paz bivouac. Despite finishing 4th on the stage the 2014 Dakar quad champion was still able to increase his overall lead to 41m30s from his nearest rival Alexis Hernandez (PER).
In the truck race it was a good day for Team Kamaz Master as race leader Eduard Nikolaev (RUS) saw his team-mates Ayrat Mardeev (RUS), Dmitry Sotnikov (RUS) and Anton Shibalov (RUS) all join him in the Top 15 on stage six.
Tomorrow brings with it a much needed Rest Day for the competitors as their vehicles are handed over to the mechanics for a comprehensive tune up. Expect battle plans for the second week to be drawn up in La Paz by those still in with a shot at Dakar glory.
The 40th edition of the Dakar Rally takes place from January 6 until January 20. Watch daily updates of all the action from South America at www.RedBull.com/Dakar.
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Top 3 Overall Results
Overall standings after Stage 6 – Cars
Overall standings after Stage 6 – Bikes
Overall standings after Stage 6 – Quads
Overall standings after Stage 6 – Trucks
Antoine Méo #19: “Today was a really good day on the bike. It was one of the longest and most complicated days we’ve had so far and I’m so happy to finish it with a stage win. I had a big battle with Toby (Price) on the stage and I was able to get him on the last part. On the last 10 kilometres it was raining and the ground was very muddy and slippery. I thought to myself “now is my time to make the difference” so I really pushed. I knew there was a risk that I could crash but this was one of those times when everything went well. So it was an enjoyable day and the bike was working so good all the time.”
Matthias Walkner #2: “Honestly, everything is more or less going to plan. I need the rest day now because I’m already feeling very tired after this hard start. I’m happy to be close to the leading biker, but I’m not the only one. There are six or seven bikers who will be thinking that they can take that top spot once we start riding again. We know from previous years how much things can change in Bolivia and also we still have two marathon stages to ride. There are still some tricky days to come that’s for sure.”
Toby Price #8: “I think today worked out really well for us. It was a long morning with all that liaison ride to get through but then when we got racing things went good. We got some rain and that got things muddy and slippy. I finished third on the stage so that’s a good result. We’re still cruising along and getting things done. Ready for a rest day tomorrow and then full gas to get back into it again.”
Laia Sanz #15: “I was freezing out there today. The hardest thing about the day was the long liaison ride. The stage itself was fine, really fast. It was difficult because there was so much water. I made sure I was careful in the places I needed to be. I’m happy because I’m improving my position in the overall classification and this is what I need to do until the end.”
Stéphane Peterhansel #300: ““For sure, it was completely different. The tracks are easier. It’s easy navigation. The main problem is altitude for the driver and for the engine. We lost a lot of power and we lost concentration – you know, the brain also works in slow motion, so it was a little bit complicated. But today for me it was like a transition. We took no risks at all to finish the stage, just to arrive in a good position in La Paz.”
Carlos Sainz #303: “Since the start we’ve been off-piste in the sand and I don’t express myself best on that sort of terrain. So, today, even if there were a lot of straight lines and it wasn’t very exciting, it’s good to change a little. Five days of sand is too much. There is still a lot of racing left, with stages that are 400 and 500 kilometres long, as well as the marathon stage.”
Giniel De Villiers #304: “Today was completely different. It was very nice for driving, actually. The stage was fast and very nice and twisty, a real pleasure to drive. Obviously with the altitude the first part was a bit difficult. We were sort of out of breath, but the second part was a lot better. It was pretty good, just a lot of water in the stage, but otherwise it was very enjoyable. It’s always good to have variation: some dunes, some stages like this with really fast rally roads, really very enjoyable to drive, but the dunes are also a different challenge and that’s also nice. So, it’s good to have variation and we’re looking forward to the second week. I think a podium is possible. It’s still a long way to go, we’ve done six days and there’s eight days to go, so there’s more than half the mileage still to go.”