Setting off from Riyadh and heading north to Al Qaisumah, stage five of the 2021 Dakar Rally provided a very long and tough day of racing, with stage times for the leading riders exceeding five hours. Featuring mixed terrain with rocky tracks and challenging sand dunes throughout, patience was needed to deliver a mistake-free ride with many competitors caught out by the tricky navigation.
Ross Branch broke the mould on stage five by proving that it was indeed possible to open the stage with the leading riders and post a top-10 result. Setting off with a strong pace from the start, the Yamaha WR450F Rally mounted rider reached each waypoint well among the frontrunners, going on to complete the gruelling stage as the ninth fastest rider. In claiming top-10 results in four of the five stages now completed, Ross sits ninth in the overall provisional classification and will enjoy an advantageous starting position on stage six.
Enjoying a strong start to stage five and looking to re-enter the top 10 in the standings was Franco Caimi. Frustratingly, a mistake with his navigation early on the stage cost him dearly, leaving him with even more work to do. Playing into Franco’s hands though was the long and demanding stage. With riders competing for well over five hours, the Argentinian picked up his pace, charged to the finish, and ended the stage in 18th. Tomorrow will see stage six play out over rolling sand dunes and now, with a highly advantageous starting position, Caimi is well-placed to reach the halfway stage on a positive note.
Adrien Van Beveren was the 11th rider to enter stage five. With his beneficial starting position, the Frenchman quickly caught the leading riders until a navigational error cost the Frenchman just over 20 minutes. Following his mistake, Adrien was left with little choice but to charge hard in a bid to reclaim the lost time, going on to successfully complete the stage. Now, the recently turned 30-year-old looks forward to the sand dunes he’ll face tomorrow and will enter stage six in 23rd with his full focus being on making up for the time lost.
Showing many positive signs of progression during the 2021 Dakar Rally, Jamie McCanney was frustratingly forced out of the event following a technical issue on stage five, bringing his participation to an unfortunate end. In only his second appearance at the event, the Manxman had shown impressive consistency and already made huge improvements over his 2020 performance, posting top 20 results on each of the first four stages.
With five stages of the 2021 Dakar Rally now complete, stage six takes riders west to Ha’il and includes a 448-kilometre special set entirely within rolling sand dunes. Following the completion of the stage, racers will take a well-earned rest day on Saturday ahead of six further days of racing, beginning with the event’s marathon stage.