Kevin Benavides (Monster Energy Honda) leads, but not by much. The sand dunes in Peru certainly leveled the playing field, only can we say that? These were giant dunes at 2000m altitude. Anyway, after the first six stages the top six are separated by just 10-minutes. That’s close!
Day 4 San Juan de Marcona – San Juan de Marcona
What a day! A 330km special in the sand dunes with a mass start down a 17km long beach. And a day dominated by the blue of the Yamalube Yamaha Rally Team. Xavier de Soltrait got the 17km holeshot and then lead the first 200km, before teammate Adrien Van Beveren took over. The pair ran away from the pack at such a speed that Van Beveren jumped from 7th to 1st overall. The day’s bad news was the retirement of Sam Sunderland (Red Bull KTM) after he injured his back (thankfully not too seriously) when landing heavy from a jump.
Day 5 San Juan de Marcona – Aquipa
The last day in the incredible sand dunes of the Ica region and Joan Barreda (Monster Energy Honda) attacked, in the 266km special he pulled 10 minutes out of his nearest rival to jump nine places in the standings (up to 4th). Van Beveren finished 5th to hold onto the overall lead by just a minute from Benavides. Pablo Quintanilla (Rockstar Husqvarna) – second overall at the start of the day – rode well but was delayed by a breakdown just a handful of kilometres from the end, finally placing 16th and nearly half an hour behind Barreda, dropping to 9th overall.
Day 6 Aquipa – La Paz
Crossing into Bolivia – at altitude, the route reached 4700m (14,000ft) – the Dakar totally changed its look as the sand dunes made way for rough tough fast mountain tracks. Oh, and rain and bike-swallowing puddles (so much in fact the stage was shortened), some of the riders might well have wished for a return to the sand dunes. Not Antoine Meo (Red Bull KTM) though, he took his turn for a win, edging both Benavides and Toby Price (Red Bull KTM) by 30 seconds. Barreda and Van Beveren were left 3:30 minutes in Meo’s wake. Benavides efforts rewarded him with his first ever lead in a Dakar Rally, by 1:57 over Van Beveren.