The day at Dakar: Super Seth Quintero becomes youngest-ever stage winner
© Marcelo Maragni/Red Bull Content Pool
The last stage before the rest day saw big changes at the top of the Bikes and SSV class, where 18-year-old Seth Quintero delivered a masterclass to drive into the Dakar Rally history books.
The first bike was originally due to leave the Dakar Rally bivouac at 4am. Mind you, to leave the bivouac at 4am, you’ve got to be awake at 3am, or maybe even earlier, unless you plan on sleeping in your gear, which some people have been known to do over the years. This morning, competitors got lucky – the planned 4am start was moved to 5:30am and 100km of the special stage was cut off, for reasons yet unknown.
The typical day starts in the dark. Out of bed, get dressed, and force down some breakfast. You're probably not hungry, but you'll be very hungry and seriously lacking strength later if you don't eat enough now. Gear on, maybe some last checks on the vehicle and then you're off to the bivouac gate. For the Bike class, the morning liaison is really cold. They've got a windbreaker to help keep them warm – it's the most warmth they can get for the lightest weight, but it's still cold.
The Car drivers and co-drivers can sleep a little longer, but not much. They’re usually an hour or two behind the Bike and Quad runners. Then, the leading Trucks set off, followed by some of the mid-range of the fleet, and then finally the SSVs.
Watch the all action from Stage 6 in Dakar Daily below:
Dakar Daily – Stage 6
At the start, it's a little bit of a party – the class leaders are focused and mentally preparing, but those not in contention for a top 10 finish are definitely a little bit looser. There's chatter, banter and the swapping of stories as everyone gets their roadbook, checks in with officials and preps for a day on the course.
It's a fun place to be and as a spectator it's a refreshing change from the bivouac. The buzz is contagious and the brap-brap-brap of bikes is non-stop – occasionally punctuated by the long brrraaaaaapppp of someone pulling away from the start line. Photographers snap pictures, there’s the very occasional interview and helicopters hover overhead.
The finish is a different scene – more people, more drama. As the top vehicles cross the finish line and enter the media area, reporters swarm them, hoping for a unique story or quote for myriad media outlets. Occasionally, a vehicle truly has to limp across the finish-line, which is always a spectacle for the crowd, who can only imagine the high-speed adventure that's happening out on the track.
And what happened at the finish? The best news for the boys in orange was that Toby Price stepped into the overall Bike lead, despite finishing the stage in seventh. The Australian has promised he's been holding back for the first week, so let's see what he’s got in store for the coming stages.
In the Car category things are really getting interesting. Nasser Al-Attiyah had to finish the last 10km running on a rim, but still managed to pick up a few seconds on Stéphane Peterhansel – very impressive. It was an all blue stage for the KAMAZ-Master trucks, as they took it 1–2–3, but it was in the often-overlooked lightweight vehicle category that delivered the story of the day: the youngest-ever Dakar stage winner – 18-year-old Seth Quintero from the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team. Few so young have ever competed in a Dakar Rally and not a single one of them has ever won a stage. Kudos, Seth.
Where does this leave us in the overall? As said, Toby Price in the lead for the Bike overall, which is unquestionably a good position to be in after a day of rest. Bonus – he won't have to open Stage 7 either, so he's got less pressure on the navigation.
The Car class is being led by Stéphane Peterhansel, with five minutes separating him from the Prince of the Dunes, Nasser Al-Attiyah. The closest pursuer? Stage winner Carlos Sainz, but he's 40 minutes back, which is a hard stretch to make up. Team KAMAZ-Master needs to continue their excellent performance – they don’t appear untouchable, with Martin Macek in fourth place nipping at their heels, but Dmitry Sotnikov has a solid 37-minute grip on the overall lead. For the SSV and Lightweight class, Poland's Aron Domzola has the lead, but record-breaker Seth Quintero remains within striking distance at eight minutes behind.
It’s Day 6, which means tomorrow is the rest day. We’ve covered 2,289km off road so far and there are 2,389km left to go. We're just about halfway there – except, not. The cumulative miles and exhaustion are sure to make the last days even harder than the those preceding them and that's just one reason why this is the toughest rally in the world.