The 264 km long stage saw the top 4 drivers out of the game
As it was announced in the drivers’ briefing, the 6th stage reserved big challenges regarding navigation and a great variety of landscapes with the route featuring a mix of sand dunes, roads and off-roads. Once again a full concentration on the road book, as well as an extra attention to save the vehicles were a must.
The competitors took the start of one of the longest stage of the rally (modified to 264 kms for a total of 666 kms) determined to give everything before tomorrow’s final sprint. The stage was very demanding and shuffled the cards with the favourites out of the game.
Unfortunately the leading group, who were fighting for the win, struggled the most. The track opener #103 Han Wei (Geely Auto Cooper Tires SMG Buggy), winner of the 5th stage, was one of the firsts to experience mechanical problems at km 121. Started second, also the leader of the general standing #111 Giniel De Villiers (Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa) broke the suspensions on a big rock hidden in the sand at km 125. Started third, #123 Tao Yong Ming (Nissan VK50) did finish the stage, but outside the maximum allowed time, suffering more than expected. The same happened to #117 Zi Yungang from Shanxi Yunxiang Team, who lost the chance to defend his second position in the general. Also the talented Inner Mongolian #121 Aorigele, winner of 3 stages, had a mechanical issue at km 97.
“It’s really a pity”, said Giniel De Villiers, who was defending the leadership, “it’s the first time that I brake the suspensions in a race since 2002. Anyway tomorrow i will re-join the race for the spectacular final sprint”.
The first to finish the stage was #115 Zhang Ming (SMG Hanwei Team) in 4h03min11s, second was #130 Ma Hailong (Nissan VQ40), 9min18sec behind, with #125 Zhang Xuegang (Toyota Tacoma 1GR) in third.
“After my 40 min penalty on day 1, I expected only a top ten result. You should never give up to the last moment”, said surprised Zhang Ming.
With today’s result, #130 Ma is leading the overall classification with only 1min 44sec of advantage on #115 Zhang. Tomorrow the battle for the win will be among them as #109 Chen Feng is third, but +2h22m50sec behind. The stakes are high as the winner of the Dakar Series China rally will also gain a free entry to Dakar 2018.
It was a demanding stage also for the T2 cars. #209 Zhang Jianfeng (Jiangxi Isuzu) set the best time, finishing 1st in his category, 13th overall, in front of #202 Wuritunasheng (Zhengzhou Nissan) 16th overall and #207 Zuo Xiaobong (Jiangxi Isuzu), 3rd. 22nd overall today, #205 He Xudong (Jiangxi Isuzu) maintains the leadership of the T2 class.
#212 Zhang Huijun ( Yamaha YZF1000) finished third overall and first of his class. Second was #320 Zhang Qiang (Xingjunyi China Gold E-business) 8th today, with #317 Guan Quanquan (Changbaishan Stock Pioneer) in 3rd position an 9th overall. #320 Zhang now leads the overall of the T3 class.
The Liqui Moly driver #305 Xu Aili made another superb performance, finishing 1st of the Open Class, 11th overall and leads the general standing of the Open class. Second and 12th overall #303 Li Jinming (Liqui Moly). #135 Li Jianguo (Beidaihe Brother Racing Club) continues his race with consistency and finished 3rd as yesterday.
Tomorrow the competitors will take the start of the 7th and final stage: a loop in the dunes in front of the superb FB – Festival, the event dedicated to the off road world organized by FB-Life that expects 2 million visitors. .