Volkswagen heads into the mid-Dakar Rally rest day in a very strong position after Carlos Sainz led an all-VW top four on today's sixth stage, and the team's only realistic rival Stephane Peterhansel lost 12 minutes and dropped to third behind Nasser Al-Attiyah.
Peterhansel had reduced Sainz's lead to 2m26s by winning Thursday's stage, and was quickest again through the first half of today's 456-kilometer Iquique to Arica leg. But then a trip off course and a string of puncture combined to badly delay Peterhansel's X-Raid BMW.
"It didn't go very well today. We missed one of the Way Points when we were crossing some dunes," Peterhansel explained. "We had to turn back and lost four to five minutes there.
"After that, we had a series of punctures, four times in all. We only had three spare wheels, so we had to stop regularly to inflate that last wheel. We paid for our setbacks quite heavily today. It's bad news before the rest day."
Sainz and Al-Attiyah then had a close battle for the stage win, with Sainz prevailing by just nine seconds despite having a puncture of his own and admitting the "difficult and dangerous" stage was not one he had particularly enjoyed. The gap between the pair is now 2m42s in the overall standings, with Peterhansel 14 minutes down on Sainz in third.
The other VWs of Giniel de Villiers and Mark Miller were third and fourth fastest on today's stage, as de Villiers consolidated his lonely fourth place overall, and Miller continued his recovery by moving up to sixth behind Krzysztof Holowczyc's BMW.
Further down the order, Guerlain Chicherit has now brought the new X-Raid Mini back into the top 10.
Stage six results:
Pos Driver Car Time/Gap
1. Carlos Sainz, Volkswagen, 4h53m53s
2. Nasser Al-Attiyah, Volkswagen + 9s
3. Giniel de Villiers, Volkswagen + 9m49s
4. Mark Miller, Volkswagen + 9m50s
5. Stephane Peterhansel, BMW + 12m25s
6. Krzysztof Holowczyc, BMW + 25m26s
7. Guerlain Chicherit, Mini + 28m34s
8. Orlando Terranova, BMW + 38m55s
9. Guilherme Spinelli, Mitsubishi + 44m22s
10. Ricardo Leal dos Santos, BMW + 48m49s
Pos Driver Car Time/Gap
1. Carlos Sainz, Volkswagen 20h39m41s
2. Nasser Al-Attiyah, Volkswagen + 2m42s
3. Stephane Peterhansel, BMW + 14m51s
4. Giniel de Villiers, Volkswagen + 31m09s
5. Krzysztof Holowczyc, BMW + 1h13m19s
6. Mark Miller Volkswagen, + 1h35m53s
7. Orlando Terranova, BMW + 1h37m54s
8. Guilherme Spinelli, Mitsubishi + 2h17m56s
9. Guerlain Chicherit, Mini + 2h45m25s
10. Christian Lavieille, Nissan + 3h07m54s