The second week of Dakar 2019 kicked off in Arequipa in Peru Sunday morning as crews set off on the sixth stage to San Juan de Marcona refreshed following a well earned rest day Saturday with South African cars and competitors coming to the fore. Overall leader, Qatari Nasser Al Attiyah ended up second on the day as he extended his stranglehold on the overall car race aboard his South African-built and run Toyota Hilux, while Southern African motorcycle racers, Botswana's Ross Branch and Pretoria rider Kenny Gilbert moved into first and third in the bike rookie standings.
Al Attiyah was quick out the blocks and held a comfortable lead over French rally legend Sebastien Loeb’s Peugeot and resurgent trio, the Toyotas of Dutchman Bernhard Ten Brinke and SA star Giniel de Villiers and Carlos Sainz’ Mini, all of whom had lost significant time with dramas last week. A major development was however Sainz’ teammate and Al Attiyah’s closest rival overall, Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel’s Mini had lost around 20 minutes early in the stage.
Loeb moved ahead later in the day after he and Attiyah both lost a little time searching for a waypoint, to take his second stage win of 2019 as Nasser followed him home ahead of Sainz and his Mini teammates, Frenchman Cyril Despres, Spaniard Nani Roma a recovered Peterhansel, Czech Martin Prokop’s Ford, de Villiers and Ten Brinke. Al Attiyah meanwhile opened that overall lead up to 37 minutes, now ahead of Loeb, Peterhansel and Roma, with just six minutes splitting those three
South African rookies Shameer Variawa and Zaheer Bodhanya were delighted to start the second week of the Dakar aboard their brand new SVR Red Lined Nissan Navara, which had never seen a dune before shipping to Peru with less than 1500km on the newly developed machine’s’ clock. Variawa and Bodhanya have endured a huge adventure on their first Dakar and are determined to make it to the finish against all odds as they continue to fight.
Sunday’s motorcycle race proved epic, with lead changes and dicing throughout as mid-race overall leader Ricky Brabec set the pace out front pursued by Chilean Pablo Quintanilla’s Husqvarna as has become usual this year. Aussie Toby Price (KTM) followed ahead of Argentine Honda rider Kevin Benavides and the KTMs of Austrian Mattias Walkner and Brit Sam Sunderland, who was declared the winner of Friday’s stage after getting back the time he had spent stricken Portuguese rider Paulo Goncalves.
Benavides then moved to the fore by the fifth waypoint, before Quintanilla led at the next point and then Benavides went ahead again, only for Quintanilla to steal the lead back and hold on to win from Benavides and Walkner, who pipped Price at the post, Brabec, Stefan Svitko (KTM) and Andrew Short (Husqvarna). Quintanilla also moved into the overall two-wheeler lead ahead of Brabec, Price, Benavides and Walkner, all within ten minutes of the lead.
Southern Africa's two-wheeler Dakar heroes meanwhile had a brilliant day as Ross Branch ended up 18th to move up to 17th overall and most significantly, to take the rookie bile lead, while Kenny Gilbert wound up 30th on the day to climb up to 25th overall and third of the bike rookies. Both riders are multiple South African champions, but Dakar rookies, who are impressing greatly with their speed and consistency. No-service crew Original class biker Stuart Gregory (KTM) was likewise doing the business in the dunes as usual .
Argentine Nicolas Cavigliasso remained in charge of the quads with yet another stage win, while there was a surprise among the trucks as Belarusian Siarhei Viazovich put one over the mighty Kamaz, while Russian Eduard Nikolaiev’s Kamaz held on to the overall lead, with SA crew member Sean Berriman riding with German Mathias Behringer in a MAN meanwhile still in the stage and running 17th.
Monday’s seventh stage sees a sandy 323km loop around San Juan de Marcona.
Image: Ross Branch