Stage 6 of the 2013 Dakar Rally marked the first special timed section within Chile, a long, 454-kilometer ride along the Pacific Coast ending nearly 3000 meters above sea-level. Riders actually faced two timed sections separated by a neutralized zone, and by the end of the first special, Husqvarna’s Paulo Goncalves held the lead. Problems in the latter timed section halted Goncalves and allowed Chilean rider Chaleco Lopez to move his KTM into the lead with less than 100 km remaining. Lopez earned his third stage win of the rally and moved to fourth in the overall rankings. Ruben Faria trailed Lopez by two-and-a-half minutes at the finish for second while Cyril Despres lagged by an additional minute to finish in third. American rider Kurt Caselli of KTM took a remarkable fourth-place finish in the stage, the best stage finish of his career, moving the Dakar rookie up to 12th overall.
Stage 5 winner David Casteu was charged with opening the road for Stage 6 and by the half-way point of the first timed section had lost the lead to Goncalves. By that point, Casteu was more than seven minutes behind the lead pace. His teammate, Oliver Pain, struggled as well, falling over 10 minutes behind before the end of the first timed special. Goncalves held off the advances of Faria, Husqvarna rider Jordi Viladoms and Lopez, arriving at the neutralized zone the leader.
Goncalves faced heavy pressure in the second section, keeping his advantage by mere seconds over his closest competition. Behind the Portuguese rider, others were making up time. Despres had cut his gap on the lead pace to less than four minutes, as did Caselli, who had moved into fifth-place.
“I ate quite a lot of dust having started fifth this morning, but then I caught up with the stage leaders at the end of the first section,” explained Despres. “It was very quick, a WRC type route and finally there were some tracks and rocks. It was really nice to ride and on the second section, we all stuck together in single file. All in all, it was generally a good special and it’s great to be in Chile!”
An electrical problem caused Goncalves to slow substantially in the middle of the section and he was forced to stop at one point to change fuses. It was enough time for Lopez to move into the lead, which he held through to the finish.
“It was a shame about the electrical problems or I would have easily won the special. I won the first part a minute ahead of Lopez,” said Goncalves. “A couple of kilometres into the second stage I started to experience electrical problems. I lost a lot of time changing the fuses, otherwise I wouldn’t have come in so far back, and I’d have probably won the stage.”
Goncalves’ Husqvarna teammate Alessandro Botturi took fifth in the stage and was followed by Honda rider Israel Esquerre. Frans Verhoeven came across seventh-fastest in Stage 6 and Team HRC’s Helder Rodrigues enjoyed another respectable placement, coming in eighth. Botturi now sits sixth overall behind Faria; Esquerre moved up to ninth ahead of new 10th-place rider Rodrigues.
Despite his 10th-place stage finish Pain remains the overall leader, but he has defending Dakar champ Despres just two minutes adrift in second. Casteu slipped to third overall and trails Pain by almost five minutes.
Riders have a shorter special to look forward to in Stage 7, but they also have even more dramatic ascents than have been experienced yet as they begin to scale the Andes Mountains.
Results Stage Six
Arica to Calama total distance 767 km – 313 km liaison and 464 km special
1. Chaleco Lopez, CHL (KTM) 3:36:21
2. Ruben Faria, PRT (KTM) 3:38:55
3. Cyril Despres, FRA (KTM) 3:40:09
4. Kurt Caselli, USA (KTM) 3:41:09
5. Alessandro Botturi, ITA (Husq) 3:41:56
6. Israel Esquerre, CHL (Honda) 3:42:34
7. Frans Verhoeven, NLD (Yamaha) 3:43:02
8. Helder Rodrigues, PRT (Honda) 3:43:19
9. Joan Pedrero, ESP (KTM) 3:43:43
10. Oliver Pain, FRA (Yamaha) 3:43:54
2013 Dakar Rally Overall Standings after Stage 6
1. Oliver Pain (Yamaha) 15:35:23
2. Cyril Despres (KTM) 15:37:45
3. David Casteu (Yamaha) 15:40:11
4. Chaleco Lopez (KTM) 15:41:29
5. Ruben Faria (KTM) 15:43:58
6. Alessandro Botturi (Husqvarna) 15:47:25
7. Jakub Przygonski (KTM) 15:54:38
8. Stefan Svitko (KTM) 15:57:31
9. Israel Esquerre (Honda) 16:00:01
10. Helder Rodrigues (Honda) 16:00:46