After Thursday’s emotional, and historic, Dakar stage win it was back down to earth with a bump – literally – for former MotoGP rider Danilo Petrucci on Stage 6.
Petrucci’s performance meant he set off first on Friday but faced the heavily damaged wheel tracks left by cars, SSVs and trucks that drove the same route a day earlier, creating treacherous conditions.
The competitive running was eventually halted after 101km, only a quarter of the planned stage length.
“The deterioration of the track due to the passage of cars and trucks yesterday, combined with recent torrential rains, has made the route impassable,” announced the Dakar organisers. “The classification for the sixth stage will be established at kilometre 101.”
By the time of the stoppage, Petrucci was ranked in just 40th place having lost time in a ‘heavy crash’ as he finished 12mins 44sec behind stage winner Daniel Sanders (GASGAS).
“Today was the first time in my career that I have opened a stage, and I think it was on one of the toughest stages of this year’s rally because it was used for the cars and trucks yesterday,” said Petrucci, riding under the Tech3 KTM Factory Racing banner.
“The team did a good job of warning me about the dangers, but I was still surprised to find a big step in the middle of the track. I had quite a heavy crash and the rider behind me crashed too, but luckily, I was able to continue.
“I think they made the right decision [to halt the Stage] and now I’m looking forward to having one day of rest before continuing on Sunday.”
Yamaha’s Ross Branch, second to Petrucci yesterday, wasn’t so fortunate – also hitting a hidden ‘ledge’ created by the trucks, ending his rally: “Just two kilometres in I hit a ledge. I tried my best to ride it out but unfortunately I couldn’t. I guess it was the same for everyone but I wasn’t really happy about racing this stage as I know the damage that the trucks can cause. “
Petrucci is out of the overall Dakar running due to an earlier electrical problem, which meant his bike had to be recovered on Stage 2.
Sam Sunderland (GASGAS) leads the bike category by 2m 39s from KTM’s Matthias Walkner heading into the rest day.
The Saudi Arabian Dakar concludes on January 14.
‘Heavy crash’ for Petrucci during curtailed Dakar Stage 6