Nasser Al Attiyah back in charge as Dakar Rally reaches halfway stage

Nasser Al Attiyah back in charge as Dakar Rally reaches halfway stage

Nasser Al Attiyah and Matthieu Baumel now lead a Toyota Hilux Dakar 1-2 by over 50 minutes after another tough day in the Arabian dunes. 
Argentine duo Orlando Terranova and Daniel Carreras' BRX Hunter won day 6 in the cars. It was a positive day for South African crews with Brian Baragwanath and Leonard Cremer’s Century fourth and Shameer Variawa and Danie Stassen’s Gazoo Hilux seventh. Botswana bike hero Ross Branch however exited the race after a crash.

The cars and other four wheelers swapped their Thursday routes with the bikes and quads for Friday's 421 kilometre Dakar Day raid around Riyadh ahead Saturday’s well-earned rest day. It was not without those regular Dakar dramas. Despite many tracks to follow, the day-to-day results yo-yo continued as the first cars and bikes on the road once again suffered greatly while opening the way. 

First and second cars away Friday morning, Toyota Gazoo Hilux duo Henk Lategan and Brett Cummings and Sebastien Loeb and Fabian Lurquin’s BRX Hunter fared well enough through the first sector. But they dropped well out of contention by the second waypoint to join third and fourth crews away, Luciano Alvarez and Araman Monelon’s Hilux and Mathieu Serradori and Loic Minaudier’s Century CR6 well outside of the top 30.

Seventh away Friday morning, overall leaders Nasser Al Attiyah and Matthieu Baumel’s Gazoo Hilux moved ahead by the 120 km waypoint. They were pursued by Terranova, Swedes Mattias Ekström and Emil Bergkvist’s petrol-electric Audi and Baragwanath and Cremer’s CR6. Saudi home hero Yazeed Al Rajhi and Michael Orr, and Variawa and Stassen’s Hiluxes were next. All of them had started outside the top 15.

The drama escalated later in the stage, when positions, and the lead chopped and changed as crews struggled to find their way. By the time the dust had settled, Terranova had taken the day from Ekström, Al Rajhi and Baragwanath. Nani Roma and Alex Bravo's BRX Hunter popped up in fifth ahead of Bernhard ten Brink and Sébastien Delaunay’s Hilux, which pipped Variawa to sixth. Al Attiyah ended up tenth, but well ahead of his closest overall challenger, Al Rajhi, who moved to second, 6 seconds clear of Loeb.

South African factory Hilux crews, Giniel de Villiers and Dennis Murphy’s ended a provisional 14th and Lategan and Cummings 30th. Thursday’s heroes Chris Visser and Rodney Burke’s ended 33rd, while Century teammates Ernest Roberts and Henry Kohne were running in the top 30, Schalk Burger and Henk Janse van Vuuren in the top 60. SA navigators Taye Perry was 35th and Ryan Bland 56th. Overall. Visser provisionally sat 14th, Variyawa 17th and Baragwanath 18th.

It was a similar scenario in the bikes, which did not start well for Thursday's top two. MotoGP hero Danilo Petrucci crashed his KTM and dropped out of the top 50. Even worse off, Ross Branch tumbled from his Yamaha and was forced to retire. Up front meantime, in spite of the many tracks to follow, the route challenged the riders who opened the special were having serious navigation problems after 100 km, so as with the cars, the order was shaken up early on

* The motorcycle results and news for Day 6 beyond the second of the day’s 8 checkpoints were not forthcoming at the time of writing. At which point Daniel Sanders’ GasGas was leading Mattias Walkner’s KTM and Sam Sunderland’s Gas Gas. Check back later — the bike results will be added here as soon as they become available...

In the other Dakar classes, as ever in the trucks Karginov led overall leader Sotnikov and Nikolaiev home in a Kamaz 1-2-3. Marek Goczal beat overall leader Rodrigo de Oliveira, and Sergei Kariyakin in the Side by Sides and Seth Quinterio and Christina Gutierrez led overall leader Francisco Contardo home in the UTV honours. And Alexandre Giroud and Russian Alexei Maksimov headed overall leader Pablo Copetti in the quads. 

78 of the 92 cars, 130 of the 144 motorcycles, 100 of the 117 lightweights and quads and 53 of 56 trucks that started 2022’s 44th Dakar Rally on New Years Day, reached the halfway point at Riyadh on Friday. Saturday is Dakar’s traditional rest day, before crews continue on their epic 4,000 km race on a 6,500 km route across the Saudi Arabian Desert to the finish in Jeddah on Friday 12 January. Sunday’s seventh stage is a 299 km race over the dunes to Al Dawadimi.

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