Written By - Franco Theron - NamWheels
Ahead of the rest day tomorrow, the fight in both the motorbike- and car categories are intensifying. Let’s have a look at what happened today.
Yesterday was a good day for Honda, with Kevin Benavides claiming stage honours, even with a broken nose. The four Honda riders seem to support one another very well in this edition. Teamwork seems to be the order of the day, where one rider aims to win the stage, with the rest trading positions to open the road on the next day.
Up to this point, Toby Price seems to be the only KTM rider, realistically being able to fight the top riders, while Ross Branch plays this part for Yamaha.
Opening the road today, Benavides struggled to keep up with the pace, while teammate, Joan Barreda Bort spearheaded the stage early on, with Toby Price (KTM) and Ross Branch (Yamaha) hot on his back wheel.
Just over the 200km mark, Price managed to pass the Honda of Barreda Bort, with Branch, Daniel Sanders (KTM), and Ricky Brabec (Honda) very closely behind.
However, towards the end of the stage, Price started losing time as Branch, Barreda, and Sanders once again edged ahead.
Barreda and Branch cleared the road, while Sanders kept Brabec and the chasing KTM’s of Price, Sam Sunderland, and Mattias Walkner behind. Yet, Brabec soon made a navigational error and fell towards the latter part of the top 10.
It was Branch, who crossed the finish line first, but Barreda soon pipped him by a slender 48 seconds.
This means that as we head into the rest day, Price now moves into the lead, ahead of Kevin Benavides, Cornejo Florimo (Honda), and Branch. The top 6 are, however, separated by a mere 4:23. This will surely cause for a very exciting last half of the race when it resumes on Sunday.
Sainz on the attack
An excellent day for South Africa yesterday, saw Giniel de Villiers take Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’S fifth stage triumph of the 2021 edition, while Brian Baragwanath (Century Racing) came in a close second.
Whilst the battle for stage honors took place, the overall battle between Stephane Peterhansel (X-Raid Mini JCW) and Nasser Al-Attiyah (Toyota Gazoo Racing SA) brewing. The latter later admitted that he found the stage very difficult, having lost more time to his French rival. Carlos Sainz (X-Raid Mini JCW) was also quick to follow, suggesting the 2021 edition to be more of a gymkhana race, rather than a navigational marathon.
Stating that stage 5 and 6 would probably be the most important of the race, would we see Al-Attiyah throw everything at today's’ stage in a bid to regain time?
Sainz and Peterhansel reached the first checkpoint of the day in the lead, with Al-Attiyah and Yazeed Al Rajhi (Toyota Overdrive) closely following. The latter soon started to trouble the times of Peterhansel, while Sainz cleared ahead.
Some 48 minutes behind Peterhansel overall before today’s stage, Sainz needed to gain time on the leading two driver if he is to challenge for the win in the last week.
Yesterday’s winner, de Villiers struggled to keep his pace from yesterday and kept within the higher top 10 places in the stage, while Baragwanath ran in a constant 5th position.
Sebastien Loeb’s (BRX) 2021 Dakar Rally also went from bad to worse as he broke a suspension arm on the stage and had to await the support truck for repairs. It was not the rally the Frenchman had hoped for.
Yet, all eyes were locked on the times set by Peterhansel and Al-Attiyah, with the former looking to gain more time on the Qatari. Yet, after 404 km, Al-Attiyah gained on Peterhansel, leading the Frenchman by a barely inseparable 9 seconds.
Crossing the finish line, Sainz claimed the stage victory as he gained on his overall rivals. Al Rajhi finished second, while Al-Attiyah bested Peterhansel by only 18 seconds.
This means that Peterhansel goes into the rest day as the leader by 5:53, with Sainz 40:39 behind Peterhansel.