He passed the spot where he crashed out of the race last year, when he was lying second overall. "It was a tricky stage," Loeb said. "We dodged the bullet." Al-Attiyah was second, 2:17 behind, but remained the leader with a nearly 38-minute margin.
"It's not really that comfortable, but it's good to have this very difficult stage behind us," Al-Attiyah said. Loeb, the nine-time world rally champion trying to win the Dakar at his fourth attempt, leapt over record seven-time champion Stephane Peterhansel.
Peterhansel, who started the second half of the rally second overall at 24 minutes behind Al-Attiyah, went to help Nani Roma early but got stuck in a sand basin and lost 20 minutes. With brilliant driving he limited the damage to 12 minutes until he ran in to trouble near the finish, and ended up nearly 19 minutes behind the stage winner. He's 41 minutes behind overall.
"Victory's slipping away after too many mistakes," Peterhansel said. Roma, the 2014 champion, was 45 minutes down in fourth. Change was expected in the motorbike race, where the top seven riders were within nine minutes of each other.
Race leader Ricky Brabec and Sam Sunderland were separated by only a minute but weren't contenders on the sandy stage. Sunderland, as the stage five winner, opened the way and struggled. He was nine minutes off the pace after the first section, and 23 minutes by the end. From a minute behind at the start of the day, he was 21 back at the end.
Brabec was up front for the first half of the stage but dropped to sixth. He fell to second overall, 4:38 behind stage winner and new leader Pablo Quintanilla. Quintanilla dueled with Kevin Benavides over the second half of the stage, and edged it by less than two minutes.
After Quintanilla and Brabec, Toby Price was five minutes behind overall in third, and Benavides was eight minutes back in fourth. Only Price among the top four has won the Dakar, in 2016. Defending champion Matthias Walkner fell nearly 11 minutes back.
The race ends on Thursday.
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