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What Dakar 2024 Day 6A Report
Where Empty Quarter, Arabian Desert
When Thursday 11 January 2024
Community International

Sainz, Brabec move ahead as Chrono stage plays its ace

Drama and mystery abounded in the desert as Thursday’s first day of Dakar’s unique two-day Chrono stage played havoc with the 2024 race. At the end of the day, it appears that Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz and Mattias Ekström and Emil Bergkvist have taken overall advantage after storming the first part of the stage with a devastating Audi petrol electric 1-2. It was a similar scenario on two wheels, as Adrien van Beveren led Ricky Brabec home to a Honda 1-2 as Brabec took the overall lead from Botswana Hero rider Ross Branch.

The Chrono stage is a brand new concept for Dakar 2024 with its staggered overnight stop. Depending on which camp they were closest to at 4 pm Thursday afternoon, riders and crews spent the night at one of seven totally isolated bivouacs. They were rationed six litres of water, a tent, a floor mat, a sleeping bag, and survival food per person. They have no idea of their rivals’ positions and no service, but crews and riders can help each other on their machines.

It was a different challenge for the cars facing a full two days in the dunes at in cases, upward of 125 l/100 km, yes, that’s one-hundred and twenty-five litres per hundred kilometres, they started fuelled full up to 450 litres, and still uncertain of making the distance. Cars were also not able to take advantage of the motorbikes’ tracks to help them navigate.

The drama started early when overall leaders, Saudi home hero Yazeed Al Rajhi and Timo Gottschalk crashed their Toyota Hilux out of contention just beyond the first waypoint. Before then already, a tactical game of cat and mouse was at play as the likes of Prodrive Hunter crew Sebastien Loeb and Fabian Lurquin deliberately ran a very slow stage on Wednesday in search of an advantage from starting well back on Thursday. Teammates Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel Prodrive Hunter meanwhile started first.

With the going extremely slow in the tough dunes, the petrol-electric Audis quite literally came out hunting and once Al Rajhi exited from third on the road, it was a 1-2-3 for the German hybrids. Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz led Stéphane Peterhansel and Edouard Boulanger and Mattias Ekström and Emil Bergkvist at the second, 99 km waypoint.

Guilaume de Mevius and Xavier Panseri ran fourth in their Hilux, from Prodrive crews Loeb and the surprising Chinese Ping Sun and Mai Liao. South Africans Giniel de Villiers and Dennis Murphy in the best of the Gazoo Racing Hiluxes ahead of Martin Prokop and Viktor Chytka’s Ford Raptor. Al Attiyah’s virtual overall lead did not last long as Sainz and Eriksson dominated up front to take the overall advantage over Nasser too.

But Peterhansel was in trouble, stranded in the desert with multiple issues. That Promoted Loeb and Toyota Gazoo crew Brazilian Lucas Moraes and Armand Monleon, who bounced back after losing time to a roll on Wednesday, and his Californian teammate Seth Quintero and Dennis Zenz to fourth and fifth from the similar privateer machines of de Mevius, Guerlain Chicherit and Alex Winocq, and de Villiers’ Gazoo version ahead of Attiyah and Prokop.

The status quo remained up front with five minutes between Sainz, Ekstrom and Loeb and a 15 minute gap back to Moraes in fourth. Chicherit sat fifth from Brazilian Prodrive crew Marcus Baumgart and Kleber Cineca. Al Attiyah was on the move and up to seventh, from Quinteiro, de Villiers and Prokop with the cars closing down on their looming 4pm stop time, wherever they were.

Only second and third placed Ekstrom and Al Attiyah had passed Bivouac D, so they camped in Bivouac E on Thursday evening. Sainz only reached Bivouac D, where he spent the night with the next 25 crews. At that point, Sainz led Ekstrom by 4 minutes and 31 seconds, with Loeb third from Moraes, Attiyah, Chicherit suffering motion sickness, Quinteiro, Prokop, de Mevius and de Villiers.

SA rookie leader Guy Botterill and Brett Cummings Gazoo Hilux had another good day en route to 12th ahead of Nani Roma and Alex Bravo, who enjoyed a positive day in their made in South Africa Ford Ranger. Back in action, Brian Baragwanath and Leonard Cremer’s 4×4 Century CR-7T ended 15th ahead of teammates and 4×2 leaders Mathieu Serradori and Loic Minaudier’s 4×2 CR6-T.

Teenage lass Aliyyah Koloc was perhaps the sensation of the day in 20th, also making it to Bivouac D in the first SA Red-Lined REVO+. Red-Lined REVO+, Teammate Wei Han sat 26th albeit at Bivouac B along with and one place clear of TreasuryONE Hilux duo Hennie de Klerk and Juan Möhr who had their best day by far, climbing from 56th to 29th. Rookies Saood Variawa and Francois Cazaletare’s Gazoo Hilux, and Gareth Woolridge and Boyd Dreyer’s NWR Ranger followed in 36th and 38th.

It’s a major shake-up overall as Sainz now provisionally leads Ekstrom by a handy 15 minutes in an Audi 1-2 with the Prodrives of with Attiyah third, 20 minutes adrift and Loeb 36 minutes back in fourth. De Mevius is best of the Toyotas an hour off the lead from rear drive leader Serradori’s Century, Moraes, and de Villiers. Botterill leads the rookies in 11th, Roma sits 14th, Han 20th, Variawa 25th and Koloc, de Klerk and Woolridge 35th, 37th and 38th.

Honda rider Adrien van Beveren’s Honda was quickest of the two wheelers to reach the furthest of the camps, while second placed teammate Ricky Brabec took command of the overall lead from Botswana Hero rider Ross Branch. Honda men, Brabec, van Beveren and Pablo Quintanilla led a 1-2-3 early on, but there was drama for the men in red, when Skyler Howes’ machine broke and he retired and Quintanilla ran out of fuel and lost over an hour,

The surviving Hondas piled on the pressure on the most exhausting day in recent Dakar bike history progressed van Beveren went ahead of Brabec to lead the way from Price, Sanders, Luciano Benavides, Branch before that 4 pm bell sounded. Thirteen machines had passed Bivouac E, so Adrien van Beveren technically led Brabec, Price, Sanders, Luciano, and Branch into the 513 km Bivouac F for the overnight stop.

Running sixteenth and 26th, South Africans Cox and Moore camped at Bivouac E, Zimbabwe’s Aston Thixton was 43rd and sleeping at Bivouac D. SA no service Malle Moto man Stuart Gregory stopped at Bivouac C and Ronald Venter at Bivouac D.

Overall results are of course provisional, but Brabec’s Chronos stage pace means that he has leapfrogged Branch to lead Dakar 2024 by 3 minutes and 44 seconds. Branch is second, a further minute and 50 clear of Florimo, with van Beveren 13 minutes off the lead and well clear of Price, Kevin, Sanders, and Luciano Benavides in 8th. Bradley Cox is 16th overall and fifth in Rally 2, Moore 24th, Thixton 32nd, Gregory 75th and Venter 97th.

The bikes and cars start Friday’s second part of Stage 6 together from each camp, with leading crews facing as little as 100 km to the finish of the demanding Chronos stage ahead of Saturday’s rest day. Your daily Dakar Daily Report is powered by Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa and Tork Craft tools.

Issued on behalf of Dakar 2024 Daily News

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