Rookie Seth Quintero boosted his bid for overall victory in his 2021 Dakar Rally category by winning the shortened Stage Six on Friday as Carlos Sainz and Ayrat Mardeev also tasted victory in their respective categories.
Rally organisers shortened the stage by 100km (62.13 miles) and delayed its start by 90 minutes after competitors voiced concerns about Stage Five’s route.
Teenage sensation Quintero has enjoyed an impressive first half of his maiden outing and he went into Saturday’s Rest Day by becoming the youngest ever Dakar stage winner to move up to third overall.
The 18-year-old edged out Khalifa Al-Attiyah by 23 seconds on Friday to move just 8m26s behind Poland’s Aron Domzala in the Lightweight vehicle category after Chilean Chaleco Lopez had a day to forget.
Californian Quintero enthused: “It looks like we only won by 23 seconds but, in my book, a win’s a win. Today went absolutely amazing. We moved up one position in the general rankings and, instead of 28 minutes off the lead, we’re now only eight minutes away. It feels amazing to be the youngest ever Dakar stage winner. It’s the Rest Day tomorrow, but I could honestly wake up as early as you like and go race again.”
Sadly compatriot Mitch Guthrie Jr. – a two-time 2020 stage winner – has withdrawn due to mechanical issues.
Reigning car champion Sainz powered to his second stage win, which leaves him 40m39s behind overall leader Stéphane Peterhansel with Nasser Al-Attiyah just under six minutes behind the 13-time Dakar winner.
Spaniard Sainz, 58, revealed: “In this first week we have had two days where we have lost 30 minutes so, for sure, we could have done a better job.”
Poland’s Kuba Przygoński, South African Giniel De Villiers and Frenchman Cyril Despres finished inside the top 10 but Frenchman Sébastien Loeb suffered a broken suspension arm on his Prodrive-built BRX1.
Australian Toby Price could only finish seventh on his bike, nevertheless his main rivals struggled enough elsewhere for him to secure the overall lead by 2m16s.
Compatriot Daniel Sanders finished third with former champion Matthias Walkner fifth and Sam Sunderland ninth as the Briton now lies sixth overall 4m23s behind.
Price, 33, said: “We’ll take the chance to gather ourselves up and get ready for what’s still to come.”
Russian Mardeev pipped compatriot Dmitry Sotnikov to seal his first 2021 stage win as Sotnikov extended his overall truck lead over Anton Shibalov to 37m34s.
Saturday is a well earned Rest Day for the Dakar convoy before action resumes with Sunday’s marathon Stage Seven from Ha’il to Sakaka.
Overall standings after Stage Six:
1. Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA) X-Raid Mini 22h14m03s
2. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) Toyota Gazoo +00h05m53s
3. Carlos Sainz (ESP) X-Raid Mini +00h40m39s
1. Toby Price (AUS) Red Bull KTM 24h08m43s
2. Kevin Benavides (ARG) Honda +00h02m16s
3. Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo Honda +00h02m57s
1. Dmitry Sotnikov (RUS) Kamaz Master 24h26m18s
2. Anton Shibalov (RUS) Kamaz Master +00h37m34s
3. Ayrat Mardeev (RUS) Kamaz Master +01h01m43s
1. Aron Domzala (POL) Can-Am 27h04m29s
2. Austin Jones (USA) Can-Am +00h00m40s
3. Seth Quintero (USA) Red Bull Offroad +00h08m26s