As sure as day follows night, the Dakar Rally’s perennial trip to the Fiambalá dunes proves a decisive factor in determining success and failure at the world’s toughest race. Legions of competitors fell by the wayside during today’s 245km timed special stage between Belén and La Rioja, but a trio of Red Bull Desert Wings stood tall to lead the car, bike and quad races at this Dakar.

The intense difficulty of today’s route was underlined when even the new car race leaderStéphane Peterhansel ran into trouble in the early part of the stage. Peterhansel and co-driverJean-Paul Cottret lost 15 minutes just 32km into the stage as they tracked down the day’s first waypoint. The setback was soon behind them however as the French crew and their Peugeot 2008DKR16 powered through the rest of the stage in the day’s quickest time, a flat tyre the only other hiccup along the way.

11-time Dakar winner Peterhansel was followed home by fellow Team Peugeot-Total driver Cyril Despres as the five-time bike race victor continued his fine start to the second week of the rally. Meanwhile, this morning’s race leader Carlos Sainz endured a horrid day at the Dakar. The Spaniard suffered a flat tyre and navigation issues before landing his Peugeot on a huge rock which impacted the spacer between gearbox and engine. This may have put pay to Sainz’s ambitions of winning a second Dakar, but he’ll remain in the hunt for stage wins.

The fourth Peugeot 2008DKR16, driven by nine-time WRC winner Sébastien Loeb, struck back after two testing days to go fifth-fastest on the stage. The top 5 result was achieved despite 10 minutes stuck in the sand, two punctures and a roll in the dunes after which the help of spectators was required to get the car back on its wheels.

The main benefactor of Peugeot’s problems was defending Dakar champion Nasser Al-Attiyah. It was hardly a smooth day at the office for the Qatari, his Mini ended up on its roof after just 6km, but along with French co-driver Mathieu Baumel the duo came home with the day’s fourteenth-fastest time to move second in the overall classification. South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers now occupies third place in the general rankings after more steady driving from the serial podium finisher.

Temperatures in the mid-40 degrees centigrade led to a mandatory cooling down break in the bike race, during which riders spent time in refrigerated trucks. If leading biker Toby Price was feeling the heat the Red Bull KTM Factory Team biker certainly didn’t let it show. The Australian rode a tactically sound second half of this marathon stage to end the day with a cushion of 23m12s from his nearest rival with three day’s racing remaining.

Price upset the status quo during his Dakar debut 12 months ago when he finished on the podium and now his team-mate Antoine Méo is threatening to do the same. The Frenchman, a five-time World Enduro champion, has excelled himself during his first experience of dune racing and now lies less than 10 minutes off third spot in the general classification.

Quad race leader Marcos Patronelli may have narrowly missed out on the stage win by 29 seconds, but the Argentine was still able to increase his lead at the front of the race by nearly a minute from his brother and fellow two-time Dakar winner Alejandro.

The feeling inside Team Kamaz Master was that the time had come to go on the attack if they were to reel in truck race leader Gerard de Rooy. At the start of the stage Kamaz’s Eduard Nikolaev was around 30 minutes behind the Dutchman in the overall standings, but midway through today’s racing the Russian had reduced the arrears to under 15 minutes. Nikolaev’s extreme pace was to land him in trouble though as his truck fell onto its side after hitting an obstacle on the stage. Following Nikolaev’s misfortune it’s now his Kamaz team-mate Ayrat Mardeev who sits second overall behind de Rooy.

With so many competitors and machines coming back battered and bruised to the bivouac in La Rioja it’s looking like a long night for mechanics. With plenty more sand on the menu tomorrow during the 431km timed route to San Juan there’s still lashings of drama left to play out at the 2016 Dakar Rally.



The Red Bull-backed Peugeot 2008DKR16 of Carlos Sainz takes the overall lead with a fine stage win today. There’s another member of Team Peugeot-Total in second overall, as 11-time Dakar winner Stéphane Peterhansel battled back from getting stuck in the sand on stage nine.

Nine-time WRC winner Sébastien Loeb was back in the race today after rolling his car yesterday. Loeb’s car was repaired overnight and he return for more action today. The Frenchman and co-driver Daniel Elena got stuck in the sand several times and also had to make mechanical repairs on the stage. They came home 1h13m47s behind Peugeot team-mate Sainz.

The news was better for the Peugeot 2008DKR16 driven by Cyril Despres: the five-time bike race winner clocked the day’s sixth-fastest time. Despres could have recorded an even better time, but he stopped to help Peugeot team-mate Peterhansel.

Nasser Al-Attiyah is continuing the fightback by showing his mastery of the off-piste stages. The Qatari was quickest on the splits before encountering two punctures simultaneously – but he has still managed to consolidate his third place.

Toby Price continues to lead the bike section, stretching his advantage to more than 24 minutes at only his second Dakar. But a portion of his hard work came to nothing when the organisers cancelled the stage after CP2, two thirds of the way into the stage, due to extreme heat that had affected previous competitors. The Australian completed the whole stage, before it was shortened, and won that convincingly as well.

In the quads, Marcos Patronelli maintains the lead by just over a minute, while there are also no movers in the truck category, with Gerard de Rooy still hanging on to an advantage over Kamaz’s Eduard Nikolaev.

All the motorbikes and quads now go straight to parc ferme as today was the first half of the second marathon stage of this Dakar, which meant that none of the vehicles were allowed mechanical assistance from service crews at the bivouac.

Tomorrow, they face even bigger sand dunes, with the Fiambala dunes section that are set to provide the biggest challenge of the rally to date over 278 km. External temperatures today have peaked at 47 degrees centigrade – less than 10 degrees off the highest temperature ever recorded in the world, which was 56.7 degrees in Death Valley, California.



The Dakar’s final week commenced with dune racing as the dimensions of the contest changed from flat-out speed to navigational challenges on the 393km timed route from Salta to Belén.

Defending Dakar champion Nasser Al-Attiyah talked openly during the rest day about his intentions to take the fight to the three Peugeot crews that started today in the car race podium positions. At the conclusion of today’s racing it’s now Al-Attiyah and co-driver Mathieu Baumelwho are celebrating their first stage win of this Dakar, as they managed to get ahead of all fourTeam Peugeot-Total crews for the first time at the rally. The Qatari used all his desert racing experience on the dunes and off-piste sections of stage eight while his French co-driver ensured their were no navigational mistakes along the way.

Closely challenging Al-Attiyah was the Peugeot driven by Carlos Sainz with only 12 seconds separating the former Volkswagen team-mates at the end of today’s stage. The Peugeot 2008DKR16 of 11-time Dakar winner Stéphane Peterhansel was also on the pace despite an early setback on the stage.

Peterhansel now heads the general classification after this morning’s leader Sébastien Loeb ran into problems on the stage. Frenchman Loeb and Monegasque co-driver Daniel Elena got their Peugeot stuck in the sand early on the stage and worse was to come just 11km from the day’s finish line. Loeb’s Peugeot rolled several times after hitting a channel in a riverbank, leaving driver and co-driver working frantically by the side of the road to get their machine to the end of the stage. Under the intense glare of the sun, Loeb and Elena were able to get back on the move and finish the stage. The Dakar debutants lost over an hour to team-mate Peterhansel and now sit eighth in the overall rankings.

Among the members of the Red Bull Desert Wings squad still going strong at this Dakar is Australian biker Toby Price. Today proved memorable for the Red Bull KTM Factory Teamracer as a stage win saw him leapfrog Paulo Gonçalves to take the overall lead. Price beat the Portuguese rider by 5m17s to open up a cushion of 2m05s at the head of the bike race. The manner in which Price rose to the challenge of racing on the most technical stage so far of this Dakar suggests he can now hang onto top spot on the road to Rosario.

Price’s consistency is all the more remarkable given that he is racing only his second Dakar – he finished third on his debut 12 months ago. This year Price has a debutant team-mate inAntoine Méo and the Frenchman was forced to open the road following his stage seven win. On a stage littered with potential navigational pitfalls, Méo lost his way while facing dunes for the first time, but dug in to maintain sixth place in the overall rankings.

The bike race has started its second week missing two of its biggest personalities: Joan ‘Bang Bang’ Barreda was forced to retire in Bolivia while Matthias Walkner is out as well following an accident in which he broke his leg on stage seven. Like all Dakar competitors, these guys are made of strong stuff and will be back and fighting soon.

On the quads today it was Marcos Patronelli who led throughout the 393km timed special, winning the stage and passing his brother Alejandro in the general classification to lead the race. Both brothers already have two Dakar wins each and every passing day makes it look more likely that one of these Argentine siblings will be celebrating a third title when we get to Rosario on Saturday.

The big move in the truck race came from former Dakar champion Eduard Nikolaev of Team Kamaz Master. The Russian trucker scored the second-fastest time on the stage to rise from fourth to second overall. The gap between Nikolaev and race leader Gerard de Rooy stands at under eight minutes, hardly an insurmountable gap given that five days of racing remain.

There are plenty more dunes and off-piste navigation on the menu tomorrow at the Dakar as all four categories embark on a 285km timed loop around the bivouac in Belén. With temperatures soaring  in northern Argentina we’re promised another gruelling test of both man and machine. There are extra complications for the bikes and quads as they embark on the first half of their second marathon stage at this Dakar.



Violent storms returned to the Dakar Rally during a turbulent seventh stage that saw more lightening quick times set by the Red Bull Desert Wings. Heavy rain on the Bolivia/Argentina border did nothing to dampen the speed of Carlos Sainz as he ensured the Peugeot 2008DKR16 was the fastest car on the stage for a sixth consecutive day. Despite the Spaniard’s blistering pace, the sight of his team-mate Sébastien Loeb in the rearview mirror was never far away as the Frenchman came home 38 seconds later to place second on the stage. Loeb and his co-driver Daniel Elena actually finished the first part of the special stage two minutes ahead of the rest. Then during the second timed section they battled back from turbo problems and a slight navigational hitch to get back on the attack.

Today’s results see Dakar debutant Loeb return to the top of the overall classification with the spot guaranteed for the rest of the weekend with all competitors getting a well-earned day off tomorrow. 11-time Dakar winner Stéphane Peterhansel sits second overall, 2m22s behind Loeb with Sainz a further 2m28s back in third as Team Peugeot-Total hold a clean sweep of the podium positions. Cyril Despres continued his own four wheel education with a fine sixth place finish on the stage at the wheel of the fourth Peugeot.

Defending Dakar champion Nasser Al-Attiyah had his foot down today as he strives to stay in touch with the trio of Peugeots ahead of him. The Qatari is hopeful of turning the tables during the Dakar’s second week as he trails Loeb by 17m36s while in fourth place overall. South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers is another who has tasted victory at the Dakar and will look to use his position of sixth in the general classification as a springboard for success on next week’s route to Rosario.

Marek Dabrowski ended the week on a high note with the day’s 17th best time with fellow PoleKuba Przygonski a further 12 places back. It was a tough day for the third Red Bull-backed Polish driver at the Dakar as Adam Malysz remained stuck on the stage as night fell.

It has been a memorable first week of Dakar racing for five-time World Enduro championAntoine Méo. The Red Bull KTM Factory Team new recruit has been quick to adapt to rally raid riding despite it being a completely new discipline for him. The Frenchman won today’s bike stage following 02h27m27s of terrific riding and now sits fifth in the overall classification. KTM also saw Toby Price move up to second position overall while Jordi Viladoms is poised to take advantage of some technical stages still to come.

Meo, Price and Viladoms will be without their team-mate Matthias Walkner for the second week of the Dakar. The Austrian suffered a fall 15km into today’s stage which resulted in a broken femur and will fly home early. We wish him a speedy recovery and look forward to seeing him back on his bike soon. Many riders, including race leader Paulo Gonçalves, demonstrated the true spirit of the Dakar as they stopped to wait with Walkner while the medical helicopter flew to collect him.

Still in with a shout of a podium finish is Portugal’s Hélder Rodrigues who can enjoy his day off from the vantage point of sixth overall. Iván Cervantes of Spain may not be matching Meo’s Dakar debut heroics, but another solid top-10 ride today places the Spanish rider 18th in the general classification.

After suffering mechanical misfortune on yesterday’s stage Joan ‘Bang Bang’ Barreda decided to withdraw from the race this morning due to an injured hand. Barreda set the fastest time on three of the six days he raced at this edition of the Dakar and will be back to show his speed in the future.

There’s still plenty of racing left in Team Kamaz Master as they completed their strong finish to the week. Former Dakar winners Eduard Nikolaev and Ayrat Mardeev are at the controls of two Russian trucks making a charge up the rankings. Nikolaev won today’s stage and was followed home just 58 seconds later by Mardeev. The latest results put the duo both within 11 minutes of race leader Pieter Versluis, a minimal gap in the ever fluctuating truck contest.

It’s turning out to be a family affair in the quad race with Alejandro and Marcos Patronelliincreasing the cushion between themselves and the rest as the Dakar left Bolivia and returned to the brothers’ native Argentina. With four Dakar wins between them already it looks like a fifth could be waiting in Rosario.

There’s no racing against the clock tomorrow, but don’t let the term ‘rest day’ deceive you. Competitors will be putting in a long shift on Sunday alongside engineers and mechanics to ready their machines for the remaining 4,000km that still stands between themselves and the Dakar finish line.



Stage six at the Dakar Rally was a day for big moves as competitors hit their groove during a 542km loop around the Salar de Uyuni. The headline news of the race’s first week has undoubtedly been Team Peugeot Total’s domination, with 11-time Dakar champion Stéphane Peterhansel now leading the charge. It’s not just in the car category where the Red Bull Desert Wings are showing their class as the squad also celebrated outstanding bike, truck and quad results in Bolivia.

The Peugeot 2008DKR16 was once again the fastest car of the day, as it has been every day so far at this Dakar. Stéphane Peterhansel was taking no prisoners as he tore through the route to collect the 64th Dakar stage win of his illustrious career. The Frenchman was followed home by his Spanish team-mate Carlos Sainz, with just 17 seconds separating the pair. Rally raid rookieSébastien Loeb kept his own Peugeot in touch with Monsieur Dakar despite suffering two punctures to finish 8m15s behind his fellow Frenchman. The fourth Peugeot 2008DKR16 of Cyril Despres fought back from a difficult stage yesterday to set the 11th-quickest time. Elsewhere, Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers lost further time to the Team Peugeot-Total trio that continue to occupy all three podium places. The Red Bull-backed Polish trio of Kuba Przygonski, Adam Malysz and Marek Dabrowski all recorded top 20 results on the stage.

Australia’s Toby Price made it back-to-back bike stage wins with another faultless ride – leading from the front for the entire 542km – and moves to second overall, a mere 35 seconds behind race leader Paulo Gonçalves. Price is joined in the overall top three by fellow Red Bull KTM Factory Team rider Matthias Walkner following the Austrian’s runner-up result on today’s stage. Price and Walkner carry KTM’s hopes of winning a 15th consecutive Dakar Rally. The two remaining KTM Factory riders, Spain’s Jordi Viladoms and Antoine Méo of France, also showed impressive pace during today’s timed section of nearly 550km to post results in the top 15.

It was a contrasting day for Hélder Rodrigues and Joan ‘Bang Bang’ Barreda as they moved in opposite directions in the general classification. After placing fifth on the stage Portugal’s Rodrigues is up to sixth overall as he aims for a third Dakar podium. Meanwhile, Barreda’s Honda suffered mechanical problems on the same stage that put pay to his title ambitions last year. The Spaniard was towed to the finish line and will now focus on collecting a few stage wins in the second week of the race.

A second quad race stage win of the year for Marcos Patronelli will ensure he gets a great reception as the rally returns to his native Argentina tomorrow. The two-time Dakar winner has surged up the rankings following a couple of tricky opening stages; he’s now set to battle it out with his brother Alejandro during the second week of the race. One quad racer whose Dakar will not be continuing is Mohamed Abu Issa, the Qatari was forced to retire after getting stuck in a mudhole while leading yesterday’s stage.

Team Kamaz Master continue to make their presence felt at the head of the truck race with reigning Dakar champion Ayrat Mardeev and former winner Eduard Nikolaev keeping overall leader Hans Stacey in their sights. The Russian pair hold fifth and seventh place in the general classification, Mardeev is 12m06s behind Stacey with Nikolaev a further minute back.

The Dakar convoy leaves Bolivia tomorrow with 336km of timed racing set to take place before arriving in Salta, Argentina in the evening. Salta will host the Dakar’s rest day on Sunday, a great opportunity for competitors to take stock after a tough first week and plan their tactics for reaching the finish line.



The 2016 Dakar Rally may have entered a new country today, but there was no change in the car race as Team Peugeot-Total continued to stamp their authority on the contest. A second consecutive 1-2-3 finish, led home by rookie Sébastien Loeb, sees three Peugeot crews parked in the podium positions of the overall rankings.

Stage five of the Dakar took the convoy of competitors out of Argentina and onwards to Bolivia via 321km of timed racing at an average altitude of 4,000 metres above sea level. Dakar debutant Loeb took all challenges in his stride to once again record the day’s quickest time. Peugeot team-mate Carlos Sainz of Spain was in close attendance to the Frenchman and he come home just 22 seconds behind. The third-quickest driver on the stage was Stéphane Peterhansel, also at the wheel of the pace-setting Peugeot 2008DKR16.

Reigning Dakar champion Nasser Al-Attiyah endured another day of trying to keep up with the Peugeots. The Qatari driver, a two-time winner at this event, finished up 3m07s behind Loeb on the route between Jujuy and Uyuni. South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers is another former Dakar winner doing his best to stay in touch with Loeb’s blistering pace: another 8m36 was lost to the nine-time WRC winner today. The fourth Peugeot 2008DKR16, driven by five-time bike race winner Cyril Despres, suffered turbo problems on the stage but recovered to bring the car home – ready to go again tomorrow.

With Despres and fellow five-time winner Marc Coma no longer competing on bikes, the race is waiting to crown its first new champion in a decade. Toby Price of the Red Bull KTM Factory Team continues to throw his hat in the ring as a contender for glory on two wheels this year. A perfect ride from the Australian scored him the stage win – repaying his savvy tactics during the first part of the marathon stage.

Price’s KTM team-mates also impressed on the stage: Austria’s Matthias Walkner took third, Dakar rookie Antoine Méo of France finished an impressive eighth while Spaniard Jordi Viladoms had today’s 15th-fastest time. Viladoms’ countryman Joan ‘Bang Bang’ Barredarode to fourth place on the stage, 5m57s behind Price, to place fourth in the general classification. Portugal’s Hélder Rodrigues was a couple minutes further behind Barreda and the result pushes him up the overall rankings to 13th.

It’s unusual for Team Kamaz Master to have to wait five Dakar days before recording their first stage win, but that wait is now over. Former race winner Eduard Nikolaev did the honours on behalf of the Russian team as all four crews made ominous moves up the leaderboard today. It seems that Kamaz are now hitting their stride and that’s not good news for the trucks currently occupying the podium positions.

Things did not go the way of Marcos Patronelli on the road to Uyuni following yesterday’s stage win. The Argentine drove the day’s eighth-fastest quad, but the news was far worse forMohamed Abu Issa. A faulty battery appears to have ended the ambitious Qatari’s hopes for a podium finish this year.

Tomorrow’s stage is set to be a genuine highlight of this Dakar, amazing scenery around Uyuni is guaranteed as the race is run between 3,500 and 4,200 metres above sea level. Can the upstarts maintain their lead or will experience tell as we approach almost 5,000km covered in total? The 542km loop around the Salar de Uyuni will doubtless give us a clearer picture of how this race could end

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