Toyota Imperial South Africa Team driver Giniel de Villiers and his German co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz retained third overall by 2min 16sec after finishing sixth on the sixth stage of the 2013 Dakar Rally between Arica and the copper mining hub of Calama in northern Chile on Thursday.
Overdrive Racing’s Lucio Alvarez and co-driver Ronnie Graue began the day in 25th place in their Toyota Hilux and recorded the seventh quickest time to climb five positions and finish the stage in 20th overall.
“We were running well in the first part of the stage,” said Alvarez. “Then, in the last dune, I was trapped and we lost seven minutes trying to get out. The second half of the stage was like racing on WRC roads and it made me feel like the tracks in Finland, like on the course I took last year with Tapio Laukkanen.”
One-hundred and twenty-two cars were permitted to start the sixth stage and previous stage winner Joan Roma led them into the demanding 455km special that started after a 192km liaison and featured a wide variety of terrain and was split into two sections. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and De Villiers made the early running, but Roma was delayed in soft sand after 75km and De Villiers also lost time on two occasions in soft terrain.
Al-Attiyah and Carlos Sainz maintained the initiative to the second passage control, as the Qatari began to make in-roads into Stéphane Peterhansel’s overall lead of 9min 54sec. After two hours of racing Al-Attiyah had shaved six minutes off the Frenchman’s lead, while De Villiers and Alvarez were running in a virtual ninth and 11th on the stage. Sainz hit engine trouble after 181km and was forced to wait for his assistance.
Al-Attiyah led at the end of the first section (229km) by 6min 21sec from Peterhansel, with Toyota’s De Villiers in sixth and Toyota’s Alvarez, Adam Malyz, Nunzio Coffaro and Geoff Olholm in ninth, 20th, 27th and 30th on the stage. The Qatari held on to secure his third stage win, Peterhansel came in second and De Villiers finished sixth. The result meant that Al-Attiyah reduced Peterhansel’s overall lead to just 1min 18sec.
“We were going along nicely, but we got stuck in the sand when we had to lift off the gas on the crest of a dune,” said De Villiers. “Just behind the crest was Nani Roma, who had got stuck there. Had we been warned, we would easily have avoided the situation. When we filled the tyres back up with air we also changed a wheel, as the tyre probably slipped off the rim when we let the air out. That cost more time.”
Australian Olholm and British co-driver Jonathon Aston began the day in 13th overall in their Cairns Coconut Resort-supported Toyota Hilux, but slipped two places to 15th after the first stage in Chile after losing around 20 minutes on the stage.
Poles Malysz and fellow countryman Rafal Marton were 19th overall at the start of the first Chilean special stage and climbed a place to 18th after finishing in a similar position in the day’s rankings.
Venezuelans Nunzio Coffaro and Daniel Meneses were classified 20th overall in their Team Azimut Toyota at the start of stage six. They also dropped time on the day’s special and reached Calama in 19th overall.
Szymon Ruta and co-driver Laurent Lichtleuchter began the first of the Chilean stages in 62nd overall at the helm of the Orlen-backed Hilux and were seeded to start in 31st position on the road. But they failed to appear at the first checkpoint in the opening section of the stage.
Tomorrow (Thursday), the route of the Dakar Rally takes crews across the border into Argentina on a tiring liaison section across the Andes mountain range via the Paso de Jama and into the foothills to a competitive stage start south of the Jujuy region at an altitude of over 3,500 metres.
The gruelling special winds its way through the hills and along twisty trails and a short liaison takes teams to the overnight halt at Salta for the first time in Dakar history. The city lies in the Lerna Valley around 1,150 metres above sea level and is the second largest in north-west Argentina.
Overall positions after leg 6 – Arica to Calama, 438km (@16.30hrs)
1. Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA)/Jean-Paul Cottret (FRA) Mini All4 Racing 14hrs 36min 16sec