Dakar - Cars - Leg 5
In what was a heated battle, there were three consecutive leaders on today's run between Neuquen and San Rafaël, a 506-kilometre voyage across Argentinian terrain.
Stéphane Peterhansel's Mitsubshi Lancer topped the first portion, Robby Gordon's
Hummer took on from the middle stretch, then Giniel de Villiers' Volkswagen Touareg crossed the finish line first.
South African driver de Villiers therefore established his first stage win on this year's Dakar event, ahead of VW teammate Dieter Depping, with Gordon taking third place.
"This was undoubtedly the toughest stage so far; there was quite a bit off-road and it was hard to find the right way," said de Villiers. "And because of the altitude, we also had to keep an eye on the engine temperature, but we had no overheating problem."
A bad jump performed by Carlos Sainz resulted in the Spaniard crossing the finish line with a grim look on his face and a missing hood on his factory VW Touareg.
"I drove 200 kilometres without power steering," reported Sainz. "And when the dunes started, it was even harder and I ended up rolling over.
The time-costly incident delivered the rally lead to Nasser Al Attiyah once again, who finished fourth on stage today. The BMW driver's overall advantage on his nearest rival stands at 2'24"... Not on Sainz however, but rather on de Villiers; Sainz is now third overall, 6'33" away.
The Dakar Rally's fifth day of racing was an arduous one, even for the experienced drivers. For those with less experience, the pace sometimes seemed as quick as a snail's in their view.
With dust clouds covering the trail and filling the air, the difficulty level went up a further notch at sunset, trapping about two thirds of the field in what seemed like another world.
There were fires on the trail as well, with Muller's SMG buggy, Lavielle's Dessoude Proto 05 and Van Merksteijn's X-Raid BMW all feeling the heat.