After the gruelling fifth stage of the Tunisia Desert Challenge, the participants did not really get to rest on Thursday either. It was another rough day in the desert of Tunisia. Once again several participants ran into problems.
In the sixth stage over a total length of 380 km, participants went to the set where one of the Star Wars films was shot. It was a fairly fast stage, especially the second part. That led along the Chott El Jerid, a salt flat in western Tunisia. About 40 km before the finish, a part of the salt lake was under water and various participants ran into problems as a result. It was quite wet and slippery in that part and that caused the two-wheel drive cars in particular to get into trouble. Dessert for the participants were some dunes, which they will also frequently have to choose from on Friday.
Dominique Robin didn’t start on Thursday. He fall after finishing the fifth stage and was taken to hospital. The Frenchman, who is allowed to start the Dakar in January, has suffered a shoulder injury. One of the consequences is that only ten pilots came to the start.
Mario Patrao was once again the winner. He won four minutes over Gwen Backx, who came in second. Tomas de Gavardo completed the top three ahead of Joris Van Dyck and Philippe Heraud. Duong Nguyen Khoa had a very strong week, but also ran into problems on Thursday. He lost over two hours on Patrao. The Portuguese is proudly in the lead in the standings, his lead over De Gavardo is 49 minutes.
In the SSV category, Martin van den Brink reaches out to the overall win. The Dutch champion has a significant lead and therefore does not have to take risks. Hence, he didn’t as much chase stage victory today, leaving that trophy to his French rivals Richard Doux and Astrid Callier. Van den Brink conceded fifteen minutes to Doux, but still has an hour and a half ahead in the standings. His closest rival Stephane Zosso from Switzerland gave another 27 minutes to Van den Brink on Thursday. After a disappointing fifth stage, Kees Box was in good shape again in the sixth stage. The Dutch Can Am-pilot finished third. "I think we showed today that we can do it, we came in third," said Box. “We still made some mistakes, but the speed is good. It has been a wonderful week, today a stage of almost 400 kilometers with a lot of speed and also some technical issues. We were second yesterday until I made a small mistake in the dunes where the wheel broke off. That was a shame, but we are doing our best in the last few days to finish at the front one more time.”
Jean Pascal Besson has the race under control, but he was not in the top of the day's standings on Thursday. The Frenchman finished in fifth place. The victory went to Vincent Thijs in the Toyota. He was thirteen minutes faster than Philippe Lambilliotte, second in the standings. Ronald Schoolderman again finished in third place and is also in that place in the standings. Thierry Bunel Gourdy finished fourth ahead of classification leader Besson.
Karoly Fazekas lost a lot of time on Wednesday, but picked up the pace again in the sixth stage. The Hungarian took another stage win and finished fifteen minutes ahead of Eimbert Timmermans in the Mercedes. David Giovannetti finished third ahead of Peter van Delm.
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