Sebastien Loeb wins Sunday stage as Rally Dakar resumes

The 2019 Dakar Rally resumed on Sunday with thrilling Stage 6 action after 74 per cent of the competitors reached the halfway point — the lowest percentage since 2007. 105 motorbikes, 18 quads, 9 cars, 24 SxS and 32 trucks were on the start line on Sunday morning for the 838km over largely sandy terrain, the longest stage this year.

In the bike category, the top seven riders were within nine minutes of each other going into the second half of the rally. Kevin Benavides (Monster Energy Honda Team 2019) started well, however Red Bull KTM Factory Team rider Sam Sunderland struggled early and lost 22m 59s by the finish. Chilean Pablo Quintanilla (Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing) claimed his first 2019 stage win to take the overall lead from Benavides in second with Red Bull KTM Factory Team duo Matthias Walkner and Toby Price trailing in third and fourth respectively.

Austrian Walkner, sixth overall 10m 46s back, revealed: "It was quite good because I had some good lines in front of me, but the navigation was really tricky and I always tried to focus on the road book, not just trust the lines. I was all day more or less alone, so it feels quite long, and it was really intense because the pace was quite high, especially on the straights."

In the car category, Red Bull privateer Sébastien Loeb (PH-Sport) secured his third stage win but failed to shake off overall leader Nasser Al-Attiyah (Toyota Gazoo Racing SA), who finished 2m 17s back with reigning champion Carlos Sainz (X-Raid Mini JCW Team) third. Qatar's Al-Attiyah holds a 37m 43s lead over Frenchman Loeb with the X-Raid Mini JCW Team duo Stéphane Peterhansel and Cyril Despres ending the stage in the top six to stand third and fifth respectively overall.

Nine-time WRC champion Loeb, who is still hunting a maiden Dakar title, said: "It went well, but we made mistakes. We saw Nasser make the same blunder, so we both lost two minutes. We didn't get stuck, we saw the hole where it happened last year but we dodged the bullet. I'm very happy to have reached the finish. It's not over yet, there's still a lot of racing ahead."

In the quads, Argentine Nicolas Cavigliasso (Drag'On Rally Team) won by another huge margin of 17m 19s to boost his overall lead from compatriot Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli (Ferioli Racing Team) to 1hr6m49s.

Belarus driver Siarhei Viazovich (Maz-Sportauto) started strong in the truck category looking for his first stage win and held on to win by 5m45s from Dutchman Gerard de Rooy (Petronas Team De Root Iveco). Russian Eduard Nikolaev (Kamaz-Master) retained his overall lead.

Chilean Ignacio Casale (Casale Racing) started out well in the SxS category with compatriot 'Chaleco' López (South Racing Can-Am) in touch, however he suffered late on to hand López the stage win. Spaniard Gerard Farrés (Monster Energy Can-Am) takes the overall lead.

On Monday the field stays in San Juan de Marcona for Stage 7 with 64km of liaison followed by 323km of racing.