Stage 5 of the Dakar Rally was taking its toll on competitors well after the leading riders were safely in the their beds in the Al Qaisumah bivouac.
At 9 pm there were still competitors travelling on the route.
At 11 pm in Qbah, some 250km from Al Qaisumah, 16 competitors were told to stop and sleep.
And some were still stranded in the sand dunes.
French rider Pierre Cherpin (#111 Husqvarna 450) competing in the Original by Motul category was one of the riders who spent the night in Qbah.
“Super special, super day with magnificent views, it was great”, he said when asked about his experience during the day.
“But because I don’t go fast enough it gets trickier to get to the finish. The good thing was that I was riding with a spaniard (Daniel Albero Puig). It was going well until the sunset, and when the sun sets it’s horrible.”
Rally organisers shortened Stage 6 by around 100km and pushed the start times back by an hour and a half.
Cherpin and Albero Puig made it to the start line for Stage 6 in time and were able to complete the stage successfully.
Others were not so fortunate, stuck in the sand dunes overnight while their dream of finishing the Dakar crumbled.
Dakar rookie Sara Jugla (#102 Team Baines Rally) has already made a name for herself in this event for her tenacity and determination.
Early in the event she found a riding buddy in Spanish rider Alexandre Bispo.
Bispo, in only his second attempt in the Dakar, has been riding with Jugla ever since. They were two of a number of competitors stranded overnight who didn’t make the start line for stage 6.
“We were still in the dunes after nightfall, so we stayed to sleep by the bikes”, Sara said the next morning.
“It was very cold, so we almost didn’t sleep! And now we see there are still kilometres an kilometres of dunes.”
Jugla and Bispo can switch to the “Dakar Experience” formula, which will allow them to resume the rally on Sunday. They will be included in each day’s results, but will no longer feature in the general standings.
There were 87 bikes listed to start Stage 6, 83 actually made it to the start line. Of those, 80 finished the tough sixth stage.
But only 77 are now being considered in the overall results.
Any other bikes still running are, like Jugla and Bispo, allowed to continue to gain experience but are technically out of the rally.
Toby Price is back in the lead of the rally after his 7th place in Stage 6.
Overnight leader Kevin Benavides, who is now riding with a broken nose, finished 9 minutes and 53 seconds behind stage winner Joan Barreda.
Benavides holds on to 2nd place overall but Price now has a 2 minute 16 seconds margin on him going into the second half of the rally.
Barreda took the stage win by just 13 seconds from Ross Branch.
KTM factory team rider Daniel Sanders secured his second stage podium of the rally coming in 3rd today. He’s now 12th overall.
The Coca-Cola Nomadas Adventure team of Pablo Guillen and Andrew Houlihan are staying focused on their goal of completing the rally in one piece.
Andrew had two minor crashes today which set him back around 30 minutes, but still picked up places overall.
Pablo and Andrew are now 60th and 61st in the overall standings.
And despite being hit with 29 minutes in penalties today, Michael Burgess still holds onto his 38th position in the general rankings.
We are now at the halfway point and tomorrow is an all important rest day, a chance to recover, reconsider strategies and get ready for the second week.
Preparations are more important with Stage 7 being the marathon stage – so there will be no support team and no service for the riders at the end of that day.
At the end of the sixth stage, the overall placings are:
- 1. Toby Price (#3 Red Bull KTM)
- 2. Kevin Benavides (#47 Monster Energy Honda) +0:02:16
- 3. Nacho (José Ignacio) Cornejo (#4 Monster Energy Honda) +0:02:57
- 4. Ross Branch (#18 Monster Energy Yamaha) +0:03:41
- 5. Xavier De Soultrait (#12 HT Rally Raid Husqvarna) +0:03:41
- 12. Daniel Sanders (#21 KTM Factory) +0:18:01
- 38. Michael Burgess (#80 BAS Dakar KTM Racing) +5:09:48
- 60. Pablo Guillen (#35 Coca-Cola Nomadas Adventure) +11:43:02
- 61. Andrew Houlihan (#62 Coca-Cola Nomadas Adventure) +12:48:24
Motorcycle Life is supporting Andrew Houlihan and Pablo Guillen in their rookie year at the 2021 Dakar Rally.
Andrew is also posting a daily diary on Speedcafe