The Dakar Rally is approaching its equator – Friday’s program was the sixth stage of the legendary multi-day race. And already on Saturday the participants had a long-awaited rest day, but for now the full concentration is on the race.
But to begin with, information about the next penalty minutes, accrued at the end of the fifth stage, at which crews of the KAMAZ-master team took the first four places. Two minutes of penalty for overspeeding did not affect Andrey Karginov’s position – he saved his first place. However, a minute of penalty for a similar violation for Anton Shibalov led to exchange of the third and fourth lines in the ranking table with Eduard Nikolaev.
There also were changes at the bottom of the stage table: the Dutch Martin van den Brink (5 minutes of penalty) lost one place, letting his compatriot Viktor Vershteinen ahead, and Martin Macik (12 minutes 50 seconds) dropped out of the top 10, descending immediately to the 18th position. These rearrangements did not affect Top 10 positions in the general classification.
The second loop stage in two days included 348 combat kilometers. On Friday, the crews in cars were offered to repeat the special stage, which was previously driven by representatives of the moto and quad categories. Whereas bike riders set off to conquer 404 kilometers to the north of Riyadh. And they finished the sports day ahead of the schedule. The sixth special stage was stopped at the first neutralization due to the road condition: the track became impassable due to yesterday’s passage of cars and trucks after recent downpour of rains. Thus, the results were based on the timing obtained at the 101st kilometer.
The first part of the journey for the car and truck categories became a challenge for the navigators. The rally route abounded with numerous trails across the wide open spaces, suggesting the correct course. Without straying from the route in these 72 kilometers, the crews got out on fast high-speed links, and after a third of the distance, the landscape radically changed to a stony surface – the road began to run through canyons.
Further, the ability of co-drivers to orientate quickly in an electronic road book and in unfamiliar locality affected the team result again – it was not easy to find the right direction on flat areas among dozens of tracks. In the final 40 kilometers, the organizers took the riders into the soft dunes of the first and second difficulty levels. In this segment experienced crews had an opportunity to win back minutes they had lost earlier and change the situation in their favor in the ranking of the day.
The three Russian crews of Andrey Karginov, Dmitry Sotnikov and Eduard Nikolaev covered the entire distance without stops and in the visible area from each other. Seconds separated KAMAZ-master trucks at the finish line, and the time of Karginov, who won the second stage in a row, was 3 hours 16 minutes 16 seconds.
Andrey Karginov, driver of crew No 509: “Today was a day of navigation. It was not very convenient to go first – the trucks, despite available tracks, make their own course, cut the track. And in this regard, it was easier for the rest, they saw our tracks, which served as a guide for them. We understood it and tried to go fast, cut a lot, but this driving style is risky – no one knew what awaited in the mud holes and channels, if there were stones or not. The only hitch occurred closer to the finish line. We lost 30 seconds looking for the right course, but this was not critical. We met camels that could be dangerous, but we took aside in advance and drove around them at a safe distance. Everything is fine with the truck – the gearbox no longer bothers us, for which we are grateful to our mechanics. I saw that the video with my passage across the river became popular. This happened after we were pulled out of the mud: we had to move to the other side and saw a suitable place. Yes, I understood that there was a deep ford, but the bank seemed surmountable, and I decided to take a risk. The only thing was that it was a bit difficult to drive out, but this was due to the inoperative gear box. From the outside, of course, such an assault on the river looks spectacular.”
Dmitry Sotnikov, driver of crew No 500: “The first part of the special stage was stony, a bit of a trial and a lot of dust. Due to a large number of buggies, we had to drive very carefully not to bump into stones and save the wheels. All day we saw Andrey Karginov ahead, but it was not possible to get close to him. In the neutralization zone, we saw two punctured wheels of Anton Shibalov, but we had no problems.“
Eduard Nikolaev, driver of crew No 505: “We got to the finish line without any special difficulties. Somewhere on the 100th kilometer, we got a slow puncture of a rear right wheel, and the entire special stage we drove on pumping. Anton was not lucky – he wasted time replacing two wheels. Navigation was not easy, and a large number of stones added problems as well. At the end, we were awaited by the dunes. The dust from T3 and T4 categories, which we were catching up with today, interfered a lot. Overtaking in such conditions is very dangerous and you waste a lot of time. Probably, we made about 40 overtakes, including leaders among SSV”.
The highest density of results – 18 crews after 157 kilometers fit into the interval of 11 and a half minutes – once again reminded the cost of a mistake in the Dakar. Among those who were not lucky and punctured the wheels was Anton Shibalov. At the start of the special stage, his truck damaged two tires on stones at once. The conditions in which this happened can serve as a little consolation for the driver – strong dust from the SSVs in front seriously worsened visibility on the track. After the mark of 221 km, Shibalov showed the 13th result in the truck classification, but the newly gained racing pace allowed him to cross the finish line with the seventh time – 11 minutes behind Karginov.
Anton Shibalov, driver of crew No 501: “The day was very unfortunate for us. At the very beginning, I did not see two large stones and we had to slip between them at a speed. As a result, I punctured two wheels diagonally at once – front right and rear left. More than half of the special stage we went on pumping, after which the rear tire could not withstand high speed and low pressure. I had to stop to replace it and lost five minutes. And then we went better, because before that we were saving wheels, as did not want to stay without spare ones. We also lost time on the pace. Of course, it was not the way we wanted to leave for the rest day, but nothing can be done now.”
The best results in the Dakar 2022 were shown by contenders for the prize podium Ales Loprais (+5:16) and Martin van den Brink (+5:35). The drivers took fourth and fifth places respectively. They were followed by Gert Huzink, who pioneered hybrid engines in the truck category in the Dakar in 2020.
Two victorious special stages in a row allowed Andrey Karginov to reduce the gap significantly from the fourth in the overall Janus van Kasteren – from 53 to 33 minutes. The Dutchman on his IVECO is now losing more than an hour to the standings leader Dmitry Sotnikov.
Saturday was a rest day for the rally caravan, which, as it often happens, devoted to bringing the vehicles to full readiness for the second part of the Dakar.