A change in location meant a change in the riding pace, and that meant a change in the stage winner. KTM’s Antoine Meo won today, as the Dakar moved into Bolivia’s mountainous territory, and several other lesser stars made it into the top 10 as well.
Weather also came into play at the Dakar today, with a threat of snow cutting 130 km of the special stage. Not that it made it a whole lot easier; riders still had a 475-km liaison stage, then a 190-km special, then another 200 kms of liaison.
The break would have been welcome, as the dune-bashing through Peru was visibly wearing competitors down (and organizational screw-ups weren’t helping: some Malle Moto competitors had to wait a couple hours for their parts truck to show up after they finished the stage. Not what you want after riding a 450 for hundreds of kilometres in the heat).
However, organizer Marc Coma’s decision to cancel the iffy section shows he’s still thinking from a rider’s perspective, and that’s a good thing, as in recent years, the rally’s brain trust seemed more interested in making the event a sadistic test of man and machine in certain sections (like the Bolivian salt flats), rather than a race which eliminated riders strictly through attrition.
The top 10 finishers were bunched very closely together today, with less than four minutes separating the 10th finisher (Michael Metge, Honda) from winner Meo. Speaking of Metge, he’s probably having flashbacks to the huge 1-hour penalty that arguably cost the Honda team the win last year; Metge picked up a 1-hour penalty today, which rules him out of any sort of finish high in rankings. He can still be of use to his team, but he isn’t a podium threat.
After all the juggling in the ranks today, the end result is that Honda’s Kevin Benavides is now the overall leader. Benavides is in only his second Dakar, but is putting together a very consistent, smart ride, never far off the pace. He was one of several riders who complained about fuel pump issues in Stage 5 (maybe riders got some bad fuel?), but didn’t let that bad luck ruin his rally, as we see today with his jump in the standings.
Laia Sanz, long the top-ranked female competitor at Dakar, looks like she might earn herself another top-20 finish this year on her KTM. She’s in 17th overall right now, but a move to top-10 seems unlikely, as she’s about a half hour off that position.
Canadian Jack Lundin is still in it; he finished 84th today. He’s in 89th place overall right now.
Stage 6 Top 10
- Antoine Meo, KTM
- Kevin Benavides, Honda, + 00:00:30
- Toby Price, KTM, + 00:00:30
- Diego Martin Duplessis, MEC, + 00:01:13
- Daniel Oliveras Carreras, Himoinsa, + 00:01:55
- Pablo Quintanilla, Husqvarna, + 00:02:00
- Daniel Nosiglia Jager, HT Rally Raid, + 00:02:13
- Adrien Van Beveren, Yamaha, + 00:03:27
- Joan Barreda, Honda, + 00:03:30
- Michael Metge, Honda, + 00:03:37
Top 10 Overall
- Kevin Benavides, Honda
- Adrien Van Beveren, Yamaha + 00:01:57
- Matthias Walkner, KTM, + 00:03:50 (00:01:00 penalty)
- Joan Barreda, Honda, + 00:09:33
- Toby Price, KTM, + 00:09: 39
- Antoine Meo, KTM, + 00:10:42
- Xavier de Soultrait, Yamaha, + 00:11:24 (00:02:00 penalty)
- Pablo Quintanilla, Husqvarna, + 00:16:42
- Gerard Farres Guell, Himoinsa, + 00:18: 08
- Stefan Svitko, Slovnaft, + 00:29:11 (00:01:00 penalty)