Defending champion Carlos Sainz edged teammate Nasser al-Attiyah by just nine seconds to take the Dakar Rally sixth stage on Friday, but three-time winner Stephane Peterhansel saw his BMW suffer a series of punctures.
Spanish driver Sainz finished the 456km stage from Iquique in four hours, 53 minutes and 53 seconds, just ahead of fellow Volkswagen driver al-Attiyah of Qatar, last year’s runner-up.
Peterhansel, however, who had taken second place in the overall standings after Thursday’s fifth stage, was 12 minutes and 25 seconds behind Sainz, a former double world rally champion, after a disaster-plagued stage ahead of yesterday’s rest day.
“It didn’t go very well today. We missed one of the way points when we were crossing some dunes. We had to turn back and lost four to five minutes there,” Frenchman Peterhansel said. “After that, we had a series of punctures, four times in all. We only had three spare wheels, so we had to stop regularly to inflate that last wheel.”
Sainz now leads the overall standings by two minutes and 42 seconds from al-Attiyah with Peterhansel dropping back to third, almost quarter of an hour adrift.
“It was a very good stage for us. I saw Peterhansel stop. I was in Nasser’s dust, very close by. I also got a puncture and lost several minutes,” Sainz said.
“I don’t like this kind of stage. They are difficult and dangerous. It’s very close in the standings. At the rest day, the gaps are very small: two minutes 30 seconds; that’s nothing,” he added.
Ruben Faria of Portugal, riding a KTM, took the motorcycle honors.
Faria, who won the first stage of this year’s event only to be demoted to second after picking up a speed penalty, saw off a challenge from Yamaha compatriot Helder Rodrigues by 50 seconds.
Spanish KTM rider Marc Coma still leads the overall category standings after coming in fourth.
“It was a very tough stage, very long and bumpy. I started at my own pace, so until the refueling stop I probably lost some time,” Faria said.
Third-placed Cyril Despres, the defending champion, admitted he had also endured a tough day.
“I had vibrations in the engine for 220km so the rest day will do the machine and rider a world of good. I don’t know what caused it. After the refueling point, the bike started to vibrate and I didn’t know whether to stop or not, in case the engine was going to blow,” Despres said. “Honestly, it’s a miracle that I finished.”
Meanwhile, two maintenance workers at the annual rally were killed after being electrocuted in separate incidents this week, according to reports and organizers.
A 46-year-old man who was working on setting up the decorations in Copiapo for the competitors of the off-road endurance race died on Thursday, according to the Cooperativa radio station.
The man was helping erect a giant welcome banner for the competitors when a metal structure toppled over into some high-voltage cables electrocuting him.
The second man died on Friday while doing electrical work as he helped build a stage in the city of Arica, which was to be used by Chilean President Sebastian Pinera to address the gathering, the rally’s organizers said in a statement.
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