The sixth stage of the 2021 Dakar saw Hero MotoSports Team Rally riders consolidate their position as the rally reached its halfway mark. Hero's Joaquim Rodrigues showed incredible improvement through the day to finish at P8 in the stage, while teammate Sebastian Buhler kept things steady to finish 21st. Privateer Harith Noah managed a good performance as he climbed up to 27th at the end of Stage 6 after a cautious run through Stage 5 saw him drop to 41st yesterday.
The 2021 Dakar Rally Stage 6 was originally planned for 618 km from Al Qaisumah to Ha'il that included 448 km of the timed section. However, considering the difficult Stage 5 that saw several competitors arriving very late in the evening, the organisers decided to shorten the sixth stage by 100 km. The start was also deferred by 90 minutes. The competitors now had to complete a timed section of 348 km that included dunes of all kinds, which made for a physically demanding day.
Despite the challenges, Joaquim Rodrigues made stellar progress to finish 17th in the overall standings, while Buhler finished 21st overall. For Harith, the only Indian rider left in Dakar this year, the TVS Racing-backed competitor found navigation challenging in addition to the physically exhausting terrain. Having suffered a few muscle tears in his left leg in a crash during Stage 4, the rider took it easy through the day to finish 35th in the overall rankings.
Wolfgang Fischer, Manager, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, said, "We are happy to arrive today at the Ha'il bivouac after six days of challenging stages. Besides being relieved to get a much-needed rest day, we are also very happy to hear that the head injury of our mate C S Santosh should recover well. We are all confident that he will fully recover soon. In terms of performance, our new bike has delivered a flawless performance and has arrived at the half-way stage successfully. Both our riders have also gained in confidence with every stage and are enjoying themselves. We are now looking forward to the rest-day to prepare ourselves for another six long stages of racing. Hope to see both our riders at the finish line at Jeddah and Santosh in a good condition."
Joaquim Rodrigues said, "It was a difficult stage today. It was all sand and dunes, so physically it was very demanding, and yet I was able to put in a good run and bring my Hero bike to the finish line. The bike has been performing really well and has been helping me to achieve these results. I thank Team Hero for providing us this great bike. It makes a big difference to have a really good and reliable bike in this kind of terrain. It feels so good to finish the first week and I am looking forward to the rest day tomorrow."
Sebastian Buhler said, "Very hard stage today with riding all day in the sands. It was like 300 odd kms of motocross stage with not much navigation, so it was very tough on the body. It's good that we have a rest day tomorrow so we can recover a bit. The bike is performing very well and I am happy to arrive at the halfway mark of the rally with no injuries and my bike is in a very good condition."
Meanwhile, Joan Barreda from the Monster Energy Honda Team won the sixth stage and also set the best time of the day. This is Barreda's third stage win in this Dakar, while he is placed seventh in the overall standings. With six more stages to go, the riders finally get that well-deserved rest day now, allowing them to recover both physically and mentally. The rally will then move from Ha'il to Sakaka on January 10, for Stage 7, which will be the first day of the marathon stage where riders will be unable to receive mechanical assistance overnight.
Provisional Rankings - Stage 6
1. Joan Barreda Bort Monster Energy Honda Team 03h 45m 27s
2. Ross Branch Monster Energy Yamaha Team +13s
3. Daniel Sanders KTM Factory Team +53s
8. Joaquim Rodrigues Hero MotoSports Team Rally +4m35s
21. Sebastian Buhler Hero MotoSports Team Rally +20m34s
27. Harith Noah Privateer +36m22s
Provisional Overall Rankings at the end of Stage 6
1. Toby Price RedBull KTM Factory Team 24h08m43s
2. Kevin Benavides Monster Energy Honda Team +2m16s
3. Jose Ignacio Cornejo Monster Energy Honda Team +02m57s
17. Joaquim Rodrigues Hero MotoSports Team Rally +45m01s
21. Sebastian Buhler Hero MotoSports Team Rally +01h26m45s
35. Harith Noah Privateer +04h42m21s