As sometimes happens, Stage Six of the 2023 Dakar Rally underwent a slight revision from the original plan. Weather. after all, is not in the organizers’ control—so, in this case, the number of kilometers to complete the stage dropped down to 357 for the day. Bikes and other competitors had plenty of sand and dunes to contend with, so it would be a mistake to think it was in any way easy. (How you dune?)
Nacho Cornejo took an early lead on Stage Six, with Skyler Howes, Toby Price, and Stage Five winner Adrien Van Beveren also right there in the pack. Not long into the day, though, brothers Kevin and Luciano Benavides made up some serious ground. Provisional times for both brothers saw them ahead of Toby Price at the 31-kilometer mark, but hundreds of kilometers still remained to get to the end of the stage.
After 84 kilometers, however, it was Skyler Howes who was out in front, leading Nacho Cornejo by 29 seconds. By the 121-kilometer mark, he’d managed to open up that lead to over a minute—however, that doesn’t take time bonuses into account. That’s why the official record includes entries like “Adrien Van Beveren trails Skyler Howes by 2’51” but the Frenchman, yesterday’s winner, is playing the stage like Pacman, gobbling up the bonuses. He has already accumulated 2’56” bonuses and is virtually 5” ahead of Howes!”
Time bonuses were no longer available to riders after the 207-kilometer mark, and a by-now familiar set of faces made up the front of the pack in the GP bike class. These include Nacho Cornejo, Adrien Van Beveren, Skyler Howes, Toby Price, and Luciano Benavides. Previous 2023 stage winner Joan Barreda, Kevin Benavides, and Matthias Walkner were also not far behind the first group, and Mason Klein was still in the mix, too.
By the end of the stage, Luciano Benavides took the win—meaning that so far in 2023, there have been zero repeat stage winners. Seven stages still remain in the 2023 Dakar Rally, though, so that could change. Here’s the full listing of the top 10 riders on the stage:
|Luciano Benavides (ARG)||Husqvarna Factory Racing||3 hours, 14 minutes, 19 seconds|
|Skyler Howes (USA)||Husqvarna Factory Racing||3 hours, 15 minutes, 15 seconds|
|Toby Price (AUS)||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||3 hours, 16 minutes, 39 seconds|
|Joan Barreda Bort (ESP)||Monster Energy JB Team||3 hours, 16 minutes, 48 seconds|
|Kevin Benavides (ARG)||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||3 hours, 17 minutes, 0 seconds|
|Pablo Quintanilla (CHL)||Monster Energy Honda Team||3 hours, 17 minutes, 11 seconds|
|Daniel Sanders (AUS)||Red Bull GASGAS Factory Racing||3 hours, 17 minutes, 19 seconds|
|Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo (CHL)||Monster Energy Honda Team||3 hours, 17 minutes, 34 seconds|
|Štefan Svitko (SVK)||Slovnaft Rally Team||3 hours, 17 minutes, 46 seconds|
|Matthias Walkner (AUT)||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||3 hours, 18 minutes, 27 seconds|
Thanks to weather-related challenges, Dakar organizers announced that stages seven and eight will be run in marathon mode for all 2023 Dakar Rally competitors. Also, they’ve been exchanged with one another, so what was to have been the route for stage eight is now the route for stage seven, and vice versa. Some slight rejiggering and shortening of distances make it possible to do this in a manageable way, or so the organizers say.
Because the ‘marathon’ portion of these two stages being run together was not in the original plan, there will be an assistance zone available after the finish line of stage seven. Stage Seven will run for 333 kilometers, and stage eight will be 345 kilometers. After competitors reach the bivouac in Riyadh after completing stage eight, they’ll have a scheduled rest day on Monday, January 9.