Today’s Dakar stage was all about knocking off early, or trying to avoid it.
The special stage itself was shortened, as the bikes and quads were following tracks that trucks had torn up on Stage 5, and racers were having issues hitting rocks hidden in silt beds. Instead of advising the riders to proceed with caution, the organization simply called the special off at the 101-km mark (the fact that the medical helos were tied up was also likely a factor). It seems they figured they’d rather lose a stage than lose a bunch of riders.
Daniel Sanders, aka “Chucky,” the GasGas factory rider who is tearing it up this year, won the stage, but he wasn’t happy. Sure, he said afterwards, the course was challenging, but the key was to just work around the obstacles. Perhaps his background as an enduro star helped him here. Anyway, he complained about other riders’ whinging, and sounded as if he would have been happy to keep on running the special.
However, some other riders were happy the stage was shortened, especially Joan Barreda (Honda factory team), who’s nursing a broken collarbone. With the rest day tomorrow (January 8), Barreda might be able to get enough medical aid to stay in the race. Sam Sunderland (GasGas) is also going to benefit from a day off, as he’s banged-up from an early get-off.
Neither of those riders suffered injuries as serious as Ross Branch (Yamaha). Branch and Danilo Petrucci (Tech3 KTM) crashed very early into today’s special, as they opened the track. Petrucci ended up with stitches all over his arm, Branch ended up with a broken leg and is headed home. It’s a heartbreaker for the Kalahari Ferrari; Branch exited early last year due to mechanical failure. Yamaha, as always, is just plain dogged by bad luck. At this point, Adrien Van Beveren still has a good shot at a podium at least, as he’s in fourth overall. Next-fastest Yamaha is Andrew Short, in 11th; Shorty said he’s going to quit racing Dakar after this season, so it seems unlikely he’ll mount an insane assault on a top-three position at this point.
One rider to keep an eye on, in the second half of the rally: Mason Klein, at 20 years old, is the youngest-ever rider to start Dakar, and he’s currently in 10th overall on a KTM with the Bas Dakar team. Klein appears to be the real deal, and it seems likely we shall see him battling with Sanders for many years to come, as they’re both young enough to have decades of racing ahead.
Another rider to keep an eye on: KTM factory ace Toby Price is having an off year, out of the top-10 overall. He’s one of the fastest rally raiders in the world; will he just limp through the second half, or will he push to make it to the middle of the top 10, or higher? If anyone can do it, it’s the mulleted Aussie alien. However, years of serious injuries (some dating to the days before his Dakar career) may be catching up with him, and it would be unsurprising if he followed female GOAT rider Laia Sanz into the world of cars, as that’s where the best Dakar riders always end up.
2022 DAKAR STAGE 6 RANKINGS
- DANIEL SANDERS, GASGAS FACTORY RACING, 00h 51′ 43”
- SAM SUNDERLAND, GASGAS FACTORY RACING, 00h 54′ 09” (+ 00h 02′ 26”)
- MATTHIAS WALKNER, RED BULL KTM FACTORY RACING, 00h 54′ 19” (+ 00h 02′ 36”)
- PABLO QUINTANILLA, MONSTER ENERGY HONDA 00h 54′ 58” (+ 00h 03′ 15”)
- RICKY BRABEC, MONSTER ENERGY HONDA, 00h 55′ 02” (+ 00h 03′ 19”)
- MASON KLEIN, BAS DAKAR KTM RACING TEAM, 00h 55′ 16” (+ 00h 03′ 33”)
- STEFAN SVITKO, SLOVNAFT RALLY TEAM, 00h 55′ 48” (+ 00h 04′ 05”)
- ADRIEN VAN BEVEREN, MONSTER ENERGY YAMAHA RALLY TEAM, 00h 55′ 53” (+ 00h 04′ 10”)
- TOBY PRICE, RED BULL KTM FACTORY RACING, 00h 55′ 59” (+ 00h 04′ 16”)
- JOAQUIM RODRIGUES, HERO MOTOSPORTS TEAM RALLY, 00h 56′ 12” (+ 00h 04′ 29”)
2022 DAKAR OVERALL RANKINGS
- SAM SUNDERLAND, GASGAS FACTORY RACING, 19h 55′ 59”
- MATTHIAS WALKNER, RED BULL KTM FACTORY RACING, 19h 58′ 38” (+ 00h 02′ 39”)
- DANIEL SANDERS, GASGAS FACTORY RACING, 20h 01′ 34”, (+ 00h 05′ 35”)
- ADRIEN VAN BEVEREN, MONSTER ENERGY YAMAHA RALLY TEAM, 20h 03′ 42” (+ 00h 07′ 43”)
- PABLO QUINTANILLA, MONSTER ENERGY HONDA, 20h 13′ 43” (+ 00h 17′ 44”)
- LORENZO SANTOLINO, SHERCO FACTORY, 20h 14′ 21” (+ 00h 18′ 22”)
- STEFAN SVITKO, SLOVNAFT RALLY TEAM, 20h 20′ 28” (+ 00h 24′ 29”)
- KEVIN BENAVIDES, RED BULL KTM FACTORY RACING, 20h 20′ 55” (+ 00h 24′ 56”)
- JOAN BARREDA BORT, MONSTER ENERGY HONDA, 20h 21′ 58” (+ 00h 25′ 59”) (00h 01′ 00” PENALTY)
- MASON KLEIN, BAS DAKAR KTM RACING TEAM, 20h 33′ 07” (+ 00h 37′ 08”)