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The trek from Yauca to the small town of San Juan de Marcona can seem a pleasant ride. Less than 100 km separate these two places going down the Panamericana road on the Pacific coast. However, the field of the Dakar faced an entirely different challenge, starting with a long liaison to the start of the special (267 km for the motorbikes and 443 km for the cars). Right after the start, the competitors tackled the fearsome dunes of Tanaka, the toughest dune sector in the rally, which is even nastier than in 2018. Then came the slightly easier dunes of Acari, back after stage 3 but on a different course, and a detour on the beach of Puerto de Lomas to freshen up the competitors before a long off-road section. The final showdown took place on the Duna Grande and Duna Argentina sequence, which were not as difficult as the dunes of Tanaka but came at the end of a gruelling stage. A laser-like focus was crucial to make it to the finish!
Pablo Quintanilla recharged during the rest day in Arequipa and scored a double whammy on the road to San Juan de Marcona. The Husqvarna rider attacked from the get-go and claimed his first stage win since the start in Lima after a nail-biting duel with Kevin Benavides. It was also good enough for him to seize the overall lead from Ricky Brabec, who finished 7 minutes down. Matthias Walkner, Toby Price and Adrien Van Beveren all remain within striking distance, unlike in the car category, where the gaps are much bigger. Sébastien Loeb is smiling again. He came out on top today after taming the same dunes of Tanaka that knocked him out of the race last year, even though he did not manage to shake off a rock-solid Nasser Al-Attiyah. The Qatari put in another impeccable performance to keep a lead of more than 37 minutes over the man from Alsace. At the other end of things, Stéphane Peterhansel lost time again and fell to third place. Meanwhile, Nicolás Cavigliasso maintained his iron grip on the quad race with his fifth stage win in six stages. The Argentinian made short work of his competitors, while "Chaleco" López flew the flag for Chile with his second triumph in the S×S category. Gerard Farrés and Sergey Karyakin are emerging as the most serious contenders for the overall. Finally, Siarhei Viazovich left the rest of the field in the dust, but the truck classification remains unchanged.
Performance of the day
Someone had to break the five-day streak of Kamaz victories. Siarhei Viazovich was the right man for the job, as he continues to recover from a lacklustre start to the rally and find the same form that catapulted him to the second step of the podium last year. The Belarusian, who had already won a stage in 2018, took his second career win, with his driving prowess making up for the performance gap between his Maz and the Kamaz juggernauts.
A crushing blow
Jakub Przygoński had grown used to racing under the radar to a high placing, both in his early career as a biker (sixth in 2014) and in the car category, which he discovered three years ago, until he became a podium contender (fifth in 2018). This year round, he seemed to be implementing his strategy flawlessly and had reached the rest day in fourth place overall, but he was stymied by the dunes of Tanaka. The Pole got stuck several times. Although he was determined to overcome this setback, his surge was truncated halfway through the stage. In the end, he came in 1 h 27 behind Sébastien Loeb and will start tomorrow's stage almost 2 h 10 behind Nasser Al-Attiyah after losing two places. A podium place now seems further away than ever.
Stat of the day
5: the number of stage wins by Nicolás Cavigliasso, the most prolific quad rider since the category was established in 2009. He has surpassed even the zenith of the reign of the Patronelli Bros., since it took Alejandro, the elder of the two, longer to win 5 stages in the 2011 edition. Ignacio Casale holds the all-time record, with seven stage wins in 2014, but he had only picked up two victories by the end of stage 6.
Quote of the day
Stéphane Peterhansel: "Yet another stupid mistake. The first special wasn't too bad, until I saw Nani stuck five kilometres from the finish. He didn't signal for help, but after he helped me out two days ago, I felt compelled to rush to his aid. As a result, I ended up in a sand basin and lost twenty minutes. It wasn't a mistake, it was a real blunder. Victory's slipping away after too many mistakes." Reports
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