In the middle of the desert! The route for stage 6 gave the riders, drivers, and crews an uninterrupted taste of sand. No villages and not even a river, just plenty of camels from the start in Ha’il, in a splendid off-piste environment with dunes of reasonable size.
Over the 477 kilometers of Stage 6, racers are not safe from mishaps. Once the stage is over, racers will enter Riyadh the capital of Saudi Arabia. Riyadh has conserved the heritage of the Bedouins but also boasts the utmost modernity regarding its infrastructures and technology.
Mitch Guthrie Jr. started off Stage 6 where he left off two stages ago, starting the stage with a commanding lead before Francisco López took over the lead halfway through the stage. Gerard Farrés won his second stage since the start of the rally, by 1m22s in front of general standings leader Chaleco López, after 477 km of racing. Reinaldo Varela finished in third place, 5 minutes behind the stage winner.
In the end, defending champion Chaleco Lopez returned to the top of the overall leaderboard. Lopez finished ahead of yesterday’s stage winners Cyril Despres and Mike Horn by seven minutes. A breakdown in communications didn’t make Despres and Horn’s work any easier on Stage 6.
“The special stage was long today,” Despres explained. “It started really badly because we lost the intercom after 10 kilometers. After that we were communicating using sign language.”
Despres and Horn’s team-mates Mitch Guthrie Jr. and Blade Hildebrand both got through the stage to ensure all three of the OT3 by Overdrive machines will start the second half of this Dakar. Guthrie Jr. is leading Red Bull Off-Road Team USA’s podium challenge, the Dakar rookie is currently fifth overall in the SSV class.
“Today was a lot of dunes,” Guthrie Jr. said. “It was fun and I felt right at home, it was like Glamis, California out there.”
At the end of Stage 6 there are two Americans in the top 5 and both have a chance to take home the Dakar overall win. Who will it be? We will see how the second half of the race goes.
2020 Dakar Rally SSV Class Standings After Stage 6
1. Chaleco Lopez/Juan Pablo Latrach Vinagre (CHI) (CHI) Can-Am 28h52m26s
2. Casey Currie (USA)/Sean Berriman (USA) Can-Am +09m48s
3. Sergei Kariakin (RUS)/Anton Vlasiuk (RUS) Can-Am +30m24s
4. Jose Antonio Hinojo Lopez (ESP)/Diego Ortega Gil (ESP) Can-Am +36m31s
5. Mitch Guthrie Jr. (USA)/Ola Floene (NOR) OT3 +47m49s
Cyril Despres (FRA)/Mike Horn (SUI) OT3 – Dakar Experience
Blade Hildebrand (USA)/Francois Cazalet (FRA) OT3 – Dakar Experience