Leaving Al Ula at the start of Stage 5, the riders, drivers, and crews of the Dakar threw themselves into the extreme terrain. Over 150 kilometers of mainly sandy terrain forced them to be extremely watchful with several rocky sections. They then reached the high plateaux of Jabal Sammar at an altitude of almost 1,500 meters, where the hills were often a series of tricky steps to be climbed.
The city of Ha’il, renowned as one of the major settlements from the pre-Saudi era, is the national capital of the discipline for all-terrain seekers. The Rally of Ha’il is the most prestigious and oldest event in the country, on which Saudi riders and drivers have been battling against each other for more than ten years, making it a necessary stopping point for the first Dakar in Saudi Arabia.
Cyril Despres and Michael Horn of the Red Bull Off-Road Team won the stage in front of Aron Domzala and Conrad Rautenbach. Sergei Kariakin of the Snag Racing Team is now in the overall lead in the SSV class.
By winning his first stage on his debut in the SSV category on the Dakar, Cyril Despres also became the first competitor to win a stage in three different categories (bike, car, and SSV), a fine performance from the Frenchman, achieved, no less, with an inexperienced co-pilot, namely Mike Horn. However, because he resumed the race via the Dakar Experience formula, Despres will no longer be included in the general standings.
Yesterday’s stage winner Mitchell Guthrie had a much less successful day in Saudi Arabia. The rookie American driver finished 24 minutes behind the stage winner. Guthrie did have a really good start, it was hard to see him fall behind after such a high like he had yesterday.
The situation is worse for this morning’s general standings leader Jose Antonio Hinojo, who finished 35 minutes behind the stage winner, losing his lead in the general standings as a result. It is also a difficult day for Reinaldo Varela and Gerard Farrés who both trailed by more than an hour after 303 km.
After five stages of the Dakar, there are three Americans in the top 10 of the SSV Class. Dakar rookie Blade Hildebrand is in sixth place, Casey Currie in 7th, and Austin Jones in 8th. Can the Americans keep it up and push to win the SSV class? Tell us in the comments below!