SWAMPED by torrential rain and sinking in a quagmire of cloying mud, the Dakar Rally cancelled its sixth stage Saturday, leaving competitors puzzled over what awaits them in the second week of the gruelling race.
More than 12 hours of rain fell on Friday night leaving most of the planned run from Oruro to La Paz impassable and giving the racers an unscheduled lay-up ahead of Sunday’s only rest day in the Bolivian capital.
Organisers estimated there was around 20cm of mud in some places, leaving many to wrap plastic bags around their shoes to negotiate the soggy terrain.
“Some competitors are still making their way through the special,” read a statement from Dakar Rally organisers.
“Extreme weather conditions are preventing competitors and their vehicles from reaching the bivouac and preparing for tomorrow’s stage properly.
“Furthermore, the scouts sent by the organisers to reconnoitre tomorrow’s stage have reported the terrain is steadily deteriorating.
“As a result, stage 6 from Oruro to La Paz has been cancelled.”
The decision comes one day after Stage 5 was cut in half due to the conditions.
The 39th running of the Dakar saw sweltering temperatures of around 40 degrees in the first week in Argentina and Paraguay.
“In Bolivia two years ago, it rained on us; last year, we were under bright sunshine and now it’s the rain again,” said defending champion Stephane Peterhansel who is in the overall lead and bidding for a 13th title.
“It wasn’t bad for the first six days. I have no idea what will happen next because it has already turned to a catastrophe.”
Peterhansel has a 1min 09 sec lead over Peugeot teammate and nine-time rally champion Sebastien Loeb in the auto standings.
In the race for the motorcycling title, Englishman Sam Sunderland of KTM has a 7min 07 sec advantage over Portuguese Paulo Gonçalves.
MOTORCYCLE OVERALL STANDINGS after Stage 6
1. Sam Sunderland (KTM) 15h22m05s
2. Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) +12m00s
3. Adrien Van Beveren (Yamaha) +16m07s
4. Gerard Farres (KTM) +20m57s
5. Matthias Walkner (KTM) +29m01s
6. Xavier De Soultrait (Yamaha) +36m06s
7. Sven Svitko (KTM) +48m43s
8. Pele Renet (Husqvarna) +54m45s
9. Diego Martin Duplessis (KTM) +1h10m20s
10. Paulo Goncalves (Honda) +1h12m39s
17. Todd Smith (KTM) +1h41m59s
62. Matt Hart (Husqvarna) +5h11m16s
Italics denote Australian riders.
CAR OVERALL STANDINGS after Stage 6
1. Stephane Peterhansel (Peugeot) 14h02m58s
2. Sebastien Loeb (Peugeot) +1m09s
3. Cyril Despres (Peugeot) +4m54s
4. Nani Roma (Toyota) +5m35s
5. Mikko Hirvonen (Mini) +42m21s
6. Jakub Przygonski (Mini) +59m55s
7. Orlando Terranova (Mini) +1h04m49s
8. Giniel De Villiers (Toyota) +1h08m11s
9. Boris Garafulic (Mini) +1h57m40s
10. Romain Dumas (Peugeot) +2h22m17s