Stage 6 began with a delay followed by a course reduction to only 178km due to an impossible river ford, leaving the racers to finish in the village of La Junta at the foot of the Andes. Today’s course proved to be less demanding physically but would put the rider’s navigation skills to the test. Unclear signs and some tricky dunes cost American rider Jonah Street the lead and allowed Cyril Despres, Marc Coma and Jordi Viladoms to take the top three spots. This is the first stage win for Despres in the 2009 Dakar Rally and moves him three spots closer to the leader in the over all standings.
Street got to head out first for Stage 6 courtesy of a his Stage 5 victory with Coma and Despres leaving 15 minutes later. Challenging dunes and unclear signs at a cross roads would cost Street first place and opened the door for Despres to take the lead by the first check point. Despres was puncture free though out this stage, which was a welcomed change, and finished the stage in 2:03’20. Coma staged a comeback from the troubles of the previous stage, making up the 15 minutes he lost, and pushed his lead back to 40 minutes over Street, his nearest competitor.
Chilean rider Francisco Lopez is looking for a top five finish for his second Dakar rally and is quickly moving up the overall standings.
After taking a 10th place finish in Stage 5, Viladoms made a charge in Stage 6, staying close behind the Frenchman. He was in 3rd place by checkpoint 1. Viladoms was pleased to have a trouble free stage for the Repsol team, while holding a steady pace behind the overall leader. Close behind Viladoms was Chilean rider Francisco Lopez who finished fourth. Lopez has captured a top five finish in the past three stages and is steadily working his way in to the top 10 overall.
Finally, yesterday’s stage has been neutralized. As a result, a total of 385 competitors were authorized to start the sixth stage.
Check out the Stage 6 highlights video.
Cyril Despres (Fra – KTM) – 1st, 7th OA
“That’s two good days I’ve had now. It’s a memory to cherish, because it hasn’t always been the case for me this year. It was wonderful. The sand was light grey yesterday, but after the rain this morning it was dark grey. It felt like it was a different place, but it was actually the same dunes. I had a lot of fun. Of course, when you can see the tracks from a long way off, you try and take short cuts here and there to gain a few seconds. I rode the race well today”.
Despite starting in 10th place for Stage 6 Viladoms managed an impressive third place finish, only 5’15 behind Despres.
Jordi Viladoms (Esp – KTM) – 3rd, 4th OA
“I’m really happy with this stage. Until now, I hadn’t had an easy day on the rally. I got a puncture on the first day, and then I had to help Marc Coma the following days. All in all, I’m happy because I’ve worked hard. My results could be better, but the other riders have had mishaps too. I feel good, on top form and I hope it continues like this. At team level, we’ve really worked well, and that’s what has made the difference. When Marc had problems, I was behind him and behind me, there was still Gérard Farres. Yesterday, I had trouble, but I tried my hardest to fight back and start as near as possible to Marc today. With the results for this 6th stage, I’ll be well placed again to help him tomorrow. Between us, it’s proper teamwork”.
Francisco Lopez (Chl – KTM) – 4th, 11th OA
“It was a different stage. There was a lot more navigation. At the start, Jonah Street was riding well with Frans Verhoeven. But after that, I navigated better and ended up ahead of them. The stage was short, but very varied. The tires are okay, so everything is fine”.
Marc Coma (Esp – KTM) – 2nd, 1st OA
Coming into Mendoza was just crazy – for the last 20 kilometres there were thousands and thousands of people each side of the road. They are very friendly and knew who each rider was. Today the dunes were easier than yesterday because when they are wet they hold the weight of the bike better. Then after the dunes it was just a short, fast piste to the end of the special (cut short by the organisers after last night’s storm). The only thing you had to watch out for was the puddles, some of which were quite deep. Once again my strategy was to stay out of trouble and preserve my lead – so from that point of view everything went fine.
Alain Duclos (Fra – KTM) – 18th, 92nd OA
Once again today I was obliged to ride with pain killers. I thought my back would be better after a couple of days, but unfortunately it isn’t the case. I will have to go and see the doctors again tonight.
Due to an impassible river ford, the course was cut down to only 178km finishing in the village of La Junta at the foot of the Andes.
Stage 6 Results:
1. DESPRES (FRA) KTM 02:03:20
2. COMA (ESP) KTM 02:05:29
3. VILADOMS (ESP) KTM 02:08:35
4. LOPEZ (CHL) KTM 02:13:01
5. FRETIGNE (FRA) YAMAHA 02:13:50
6. CASTEU (FRA) KTM 02:14:34
7. RODRIGUES (PRT) KTM 02:14:38
8. VERHOEVEN (NLD) KTM 02:17:33
9. KNUIMAN (NLD) KTM 02:17:44
10. BERGLUND (SWE) KTM 02:18:40
1. COMA (ESP) KTM 23:43:41
2. STREET (USA) KTM 24:24:10
3. FRETIGNE (FRA) YAMAHA 24:31:11
4. VILADOMS (ESP) KTM 24:53:29
5. ULLEVALSETER (NOR) KTM 24:56:54
6. RODRIGUES (PRT) KTM 25:10:44
7. DESPRES (FRA) KTM 25:17:40
8. VERHOEVEN (NLD) KTM 25:19:46
9. CASTEU (FRA) KTM 25:24:37
10. KNUIMAN (NLD) KTM 25:30:37