Daniel Sanders has claimed his second stage win of the 2022 Dakar Rally ahead of team-mate and overall leader Sam Sunderland, Matthias Walkner rounded out the top three for the shortened stage.
At the end of a wild opening six days of desert racing at the 2022 Dakar Rally, Sam Sunderland holds onto the top spot of the provisional overall leaderboard while Daniel Sanders claimed his second stage win of the race, moving up to third in the overall provisional classification.
As had previously been predicted, today’s stage was held amid dismal track conditions, given that the cars, SSVs and trucks had competed over the same route a day earlier. Riders set out well aware that they would have their work cut out on this tough, physical stage. However, the race organisers quickly realised just how treacherous the route was for most riders: “The deterioration of the track due to the passage of cars and trucks yesterday, combined with recent torrential rains, has made the route impassable,” announced the ASO mid-stage. Furthermore, the organisers’ communiqué stated that “the classification for the sixth stage will be established at kilometre 101”. Therefore, the final stage length was approximately a quarter of the originally scheduled total.
Daniel Sanders second stage win of the race saw him move up to third in the overall provisional classification. Although happy to have another stage win in the bag he was somewhat disappointed to see the stage cut short hindering his chances to make up time in the overall rankings.
“It was going really well for me today and I guess it ended well actually with another stage win,” Sanders said. “I started off strong, a bit like I have all week, but it was soon pretty clear that the stage was pretty chewed up from yesterday after the trucks had raced through it. So, then it was a case of trying to focus on the dangers in the roadbook but because of how the stage was, there were plenty of additional dangers to keep an eye out for. I’m a little disappointed that today was cut short, though. There was a long day ahead where it would have been possible to make up some time but I’m happy to have taken another stage win and I’m looking forward to next week.”
Rounding out a strong and consistent week of racing, Sam Sunderland finished as runner-up on stage six, just a couple of minutes behind Sanders. Able to accurately read the challenging terrain, the Brit applied a cautious approach throughout the abbreviated special. Safely bringing his GASGAS RC 450F Rally home on the shortened, 100-kilometre stage without any issues, Sam importantly maintains his lead in the provisional standings.
“Ahead of today there were quite a few riders concerned about how the stage would be after the trucks had raced it yesterday, and it was unbelievable out there,” Sunderland said. “So many rocks and square edges where trucks spin up the dirt and leave the rocks behind. So, on a bike, you’re basically coming up to half meter high walls of rock everywhere. You then start going offline to find smooth lines but then your roadbook isn’t quite right as you’ve ridden away from the correct line. For me it was the right decision for it to be shortened today and I’m happy to reach the halfway point still in the lead. I’m looking forward to the rest day tomorrow and a chance to recharge my batteries ahead of next week.”
Matthias Walkner came into today’s stage knowing that the rough terrain would pose a huge challenge to all riders and the chance of some unexpected dangers was very high. As such, the experienced Austrian took extra care on the heavily rutted ground and aimed for a safe finish to the stage. Despite his caution, Walkner was third fastest to the refueling point at kilometer 100, where the stage was eventually stopped. Matthias now sits second overall at the close of the first week of racing, trailing Sam Sunderland by under three minutes.
“Obviously it was a short day today and the tracks were really rough,” Walkner explained. “You had to focus a lot and really take care – it was also very physical with the ground being cut up so badly. I’m a little disappointed that they let us race the stage only to cancel it at 100 kilometers, but I suppose it was the same for everyone. Thankfully it all went ok, and I reached the finish safely. We have a rest day tomorrow that I’m really looking forward to, so I’ll try and recharge my batteries and then attack once again next week for the final six stages.”
Honda duo Pablo Quintanilla and Ricky Brabec finished 4th and 5th respectively while rookie Mason Klein once again impressed with 6th place.
Adrien Van Beveren applied a cautious approach and paid close attention to his roadbook completing the stage as the eighth fastest rider and dropping from 3rd to 4th in the overall standings.
As the fifth rider to enter the stage, Toby Price also soon realized that extra care was needed to avoid a crash. Despite a couple of close calls, the two-time Dakar champion safely arrived at the end of the special in ninth place. Lying 12th in the provisional overall standings, Toby trails the leader by just under 40 mins. However, with the toughest, most technical six days of the event left to race, the Australian star is confident of being able to close that deficit.
“It was quite a short stage today,” Price said. “The cars and trucks had all passed through there yesterday, so we were on their stage today. I think we all went into the stage with a bit of a feeling that it wasn’t going to work and yeah, a lot of the dangers were worse than listed on the roadbook and there were a few extra hazards out there too. I think they made the right call to stop it at 100 kilometers – I had a couple of scary moments myself out there. I’m happy to reach the rest day safely, not quite the overall position I would have liked, but there’s still a long way to go, so I’ll give my all and see what I can do next week.”
There will be no stage tomorrow. After six days of tough racing, the competitors have earned a well-deserved rest day. After arriving at the bivouac today, the riders will have the entire day to relax and prepare both physically and mentally for the second week of competition, set to recommence the day after tomorrow, on Sunday, with the seventh stage: Riyadh-Al Dawadimi.
STAGE 6 TOP 20 RESULTS
TOP 20 OVERALL STANDINGS FOLLOWING STAGE 6