Stage six of the Telephonica Dakar between Ouarzazate and Tan-Tan was not only challenging to participants, it also taxed the vehicles.

Stage six of the Telephonica Dakar between Ouarzazate and Tan-Tan was not only challenging to participants, it also taxed the vehicles.

Spanning 803km, yesterday’s track was pitted with holes and rocks, and riders and drivers’ mental preparation and manoeuvrability were greatly tested.

The Bike competition between KTM teammates Isidre Esteve Pujol and Joan Roma heated up as Roma took victory yesterday. The two KTM riders sit first and second overall with Pujol almost two minutes in the lead.

Pujol expressed his disappointment with a mechanical failure which greatly affected his navigation. Most importantly though is that he still heads the leaderboard with Roma behind him.

Australian Andy Caldecott (KTM) finished third yesterday ahead of Cyril Despres while Carlo de Gavardo filled the fifth spot.

Stage six saw a beaming Alfie Cox finish in sixth position to maintain his fifth place overall on his 41st birthday.

However, the tough and challenging stage was not without casualties as riders/drivers were required to put on their best driving performances.

In the first 117km of the Special yesterday, Cox’s KTM teammate, Giovanni Sala, crashed when he clipped a big rock and broke two ribs.

"I knew that yesterday and today were going to be crucial stages," commented Hiroshi Masuoka, the 2002 and 2003 Dakar champion. "I have been pleased with my performance coming into Ouarzazate."

In the Special for the Car category, Ari Vatanen experienced more bad luck when water clogged up his Nissan engine. Vatanen, stage four winner, finished stage six in 72nd place.

Jutta Kleinschmidt also choked after hitting deep water on a river crossing which meant that her Toureg had to be towed back to Tan-Tan by a Volkswagen service truck.

Mitsubishi’s Miki Biasion was first to with mechanical problems in the first 80km. With 30km left on the Special, a crash seriously damaged the car, though Biasion and co-driver Tiziano Siviero were uninjured.

Going into stage six, Stephane Peterhansel headed the results table, but a troublesome flat tyre moved him down the table to second overall.

Mitsubishi's Masuoka won the Special yesterday and is now the Car overall leader. Behind Masuoka was Nissan's de Villiers followed by teammate McRae. Peterhansel took fourth with BMW's Gregoire de Mevius in fifth.

Original article from Car