South African drivers and cars, Giniel de Villiers’ Gazoo Racing Toyota Hilux and Brian Baragwanath and Taye Perry in a Century CR6 Corvette stole the show on a bittersweet Dakar Day 6 on Thursday, while Kevin Benavides took another controversial bike victory for Honda.
The 2021 race continued to show its teeth on a dramatic Day 5 through the Arabian Desert to Al Qaisumah on Thursday as it claimed its rookie stars when SA crew Henk Lategan and Brett Cummings crashed their Toyota out as several other top car crews struggled. At the same time, the yo-yo bike class leaderboard continued to fluctuate wildly as the first starters and previous day winner, lost time to navigation issues for the fifth day straight.
De Villiers took charge from the get-go, from Eric van Loon’s Hilux, Nani Roma’s Hunter and Martin Prokop’s Ford, while overall leaders Peterhansel and Al Attiyah traded places in fifth and sixth ahead of Baragwanath. Baragwanath guided by navigatrix Taye Perry, was the big mover and was up to second and closing on de Villiers, who had opened up a 7 minute lead as the crews entered the long final sector, as Peterhansl, opened a 3 minute advantage over overall rival Al Attiyah.
Baragwanath continued to close de Villiers down as he worked his way through the dust and passed cars after starting well back, but the wily de Villiers held on to take the day — his 17th stage win — by a minute from his charging compatriot. Peterhansel ended up fourth from Al Attiyah, Prokop and Orlando Terranova’s Mini. Shameer Variyawa and Dennis Murphy’s fourth Gazoo Hiluxs was still running in 30th as we wrote.
Peterhansel now leads Attiyah by six minutes, with Carlos Sainz 40 minutes back in third.
The day however started in dramatic fashion as first Toyota rookie stars Henk Lategan and Brett Cummings crashed out. Lategan had a sore shoulder, while Cummings was fine, but their heroic Dakar is done. They were not alone in their troubles and while former rally legends Sainz and Sébastien Loeb both took wrong turns and lost considerable time.
Moving on to the two wheeled race, Argentine Kevin Benavides picked his Honda up after a crash 100 km from home to bring it home to win the bikes and move into the overall lead despite a bloody nose sustained in his fall. He beat Honda teammate Jose Ignacio Cornejo Flormino, KTM ace Toby Price, Lorenzo Santolino’s Sherco, Sam Sunderland’s KTM. Husqvarna and KTM privateers Xavier de Soultrait and Skyler Howes, and Botswana hero Ross branch on his Yamaha.
The 2021 Dakar curse on the bike front runners however struck again as the race continued to yo-yo day-to-day. Thursday’s 14th, 7th and 22nd starters topped the podium, while the top three starters, Wednesday’s top three Barreda, Sanders and Luciano Benavides were provisionally 14th, 13th and 12th and likely to drop further down the order as more bikes finished the day…
None the less, Benavides now leads the consistent Soultrait, Flormino, Price, Sunderland, Santolino, Hoews, Branch, Barreda and Luviano Benavides overall as the leaderboard continues to fluctuate wildly day-to-day. The only upside is that the top ten remain within fifteen minutes, so this rally is anyone’s game…
In the other categories, Nasser’s kid brother Khalifa Al Attiyah was leading the Light Cars from Francisco Lopez Contardo’s similar Can Am and Kris Meeke in a PH-Sport and Nicolas Cavigliasso was ahead of Manuel Anduhar and Giovanni Enrico in the quads at the time of writing. And Martin Macik’s Iveco led Antrey Karginov’s Kamaz and Aliaxei Vishneuski in a MAZ among the Trucks.
Friday’s 448 km stage is all about dunes on the way to Dakar’s Saturday rest day at Ha’il. Dakar 2021 ends a week and 4800km of racing later at Jeddah on Friday 15 January.
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