Yesterday’s stage six of the 2013 Dakar saw Qatari Nasser Al-Attiyah and Spanish co-driver Lucas Cruz make up precious time on overall leaders Stephane Peterhansel and Jean Paul Cottret. Al-Attiyah now carries the hope of the Red Bull Qatar squad after team-mate Carlos Sainz’s buggy suffered engine failure.
Al-Attiyah made the most of his trouble-free buggy yesterday across a variety of surfaces during the 438 km route between Arica and Calama to significantly close the gap that Peterhansel opened early on during this year’s event.
“We did a good job and I’m quite happy to be here, without any mistakes, the car working very well, the tyres were really good, and I’m quite happy with everything. We just try to keep going like this and we try to keep close to Peter (Peterhansel) because maybe tomorrow the stage might not be for us, but okay, if we lose, we lose just a few minutes,”Al-Attiyah said yesterday.
Peterhansel and Cottret have proved that consistency is key on the Dakar Rally, and their X-Raid Mini has stayed up in the stage rankings. The French duo were helped 71 km in when team-mates Joan Roma and Michel Perin got stuck in a ditch and showed the lead Mini the right way round.
“We had our first mishap today in the dunes around Iquique. The sand was very soft. Nani (Roma) took advantage to overtake us, but several kilometres further on, we saw him stuck in a hollow, which just goes to show how complicated it is,” Peterhansel said.
With lost of ups and downs in only the first week of this year’s Dakar, Americans Robby Gordon and Kellon Walch have a lot to make up for – a six-hour deficit separates their Hummer from Peterhansel’s Mini. Yesterday’s terrain suited their car and style, as they went on to finish the stage third.
“It was okay. We stayed on the road early and a bunch of guys cut – which is okay, you can do that. We lost about five minutes on the first section because we stayed up on the road and I could see down the valley where a few motorcycles had gone. I’m pretty confident that’s where Nasser went. When you have cars to follow you can see the dust trail in front of you and go to the dust trail and that’s a big advantage,” Gordon reflected.
South African Giniel de Villiers and German co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz were doing well when their Imperial Toyota Hilux got stuck just behind Roma and Perin. They eventually finished sixth, 17 minutes behind Al-Attiyah, and retained their third place overall. Another South African, Sarel van Biljon, did well in the quad category yesterday. The E-ATV rider finished the stage third, and is fourth overall in his category.
A half-hour Dakar highlights package will be screened on SuperSport2 (DStv channel 202) at 22:00 every day, with five repeats the following day, from 5 January.