Carlos Sainz took advantage of Yazeed Al-Rajhi's crash and Stephane Peterhansel's breakdown to seize the provisional lead in the first part of the Dakar Rally's sixth stage. The stage, a two-day marathon around Shubaytah, covered a 780km loop in the Empty Quarter with extensive specials for motorcycles and cars.
Sainz, a veteran Spaniard and three-time Dakar winner, demonstrated his skill by leading the standings when the day's action concluded. The 61-year-old Audi driver now holds a significant lead in the general standings over teammate Matthias Ekstrom, with Nasser Al-Attiyah trailing by around 22 minutes.
Sainz strategically sacrificed 40 minutes on Wednesday to start behind the leaders on Thursday, allowing him to follow their tracks and avoid opening in the dunes. This tactic paid off, as both Al-Rajhi and Peterhansel faced setbacks. Al-Rajhi, the Saudi Toyota driver who initially led the standings, suffered a damaging accident and could not repair his Hilux.
Meanwhile, Peterhansel, a Dakar Rally veteran, encountered a hydraulic failure, leaving him stranded in the desert. Despite not having a hand jack, Peterhansel expressed uncertainty about managing the wheel change without the hydraulic system's support.
The Dakar Rally, featuring a record 14-time winner Peterhansel, is now out of reach for the veteran due to these setbacks. The 48-hour stage on Thursday and Friday marks the conclusion of the first week before the rest day on Saturday in Riyadh.
In the motorbike category, Frenchman Adrien van Beveren led the sixth stage, with American Honda teammate Ricky Brabec taking the overall race lead. Van Beveren finished 1min 21sec ahead of Brabec, while Australian Toby Price secured the third spot at 1min 49sec. Chilean rider Pablo Quintanilla, Wednesday's stage winner, faced fuel issues and lost nearly an hour and a half about 10km from the first refuelling point.