Calama, Chile - Stephane Peterhansel continues to lead the Dakar Rally in his Mini after Thursday's 454km special stage six, but Nasser Al-Attiyah (Buggy) is closing the gap rapidly, while South Africa's Giniel de Villiers remains in third position overall.
Al-Attiyah won the stage by over eight minutes, enough to close the gap to the winner to just 1 min 18 sec in the overall race.
Peterhansel came second and Robby Gordon (Hummer) third, while Orlando Terranova (BMW) and Leonid Novitskiy (Mini) completed the top five.
GINIEL GETS STUCK
South Africa's most famous Hilux driver, De Villiers, came home in sixth place after suffering a misfortune in the dunes, but his finishing time was still enough to maintain his third overall position, albeit the gap to the leader has increased from 33m50 to 42m31.
De Villiers and navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz were forced to slow down when they came across the Mini of Nani Roma, which (unbeknown to them) had become stuck behind a crest.
“We were actually going along nicely, but unfortunately we got stuck in the sand when we had to lift off the gas on the crest of a dune. Just behind the crest was 'Nani' Roma, who had got stuck there,” De Villiers explained.
“Had we been warned - there was already an official there, after all - we would easily have avoided the situation. When we filled the tyres back up with air we also changed a wheel, as the tyre probably slipped off the rim when we let the air out. That cost more time.
“We are very happy with the time we spent actually driving. The time spent immobilised was just bad luck.”
It was a far darker day for Al-Attiya's team-mate Carlos Sainz as the 2010 winner suffered a mechanical failure that forced him to retire.
Meanwhile South Africa's only other car category contender, Dakar rookie Johan van Staden, overcame the odds to finish the previous day's stage five.
He and navigator Mike Lawrenson got stuck in the desert with a broken clutch in stage four.
After spending the night in the desert, the sleep-deprived pair completed the route and made it back for stage five in the nick of time. Their results for stage five and six are not showing on the Dakar scoreboard, so we'll keep you posted once we know more.
The next leg of the Dakar takes competitors on an 806km journey (218km timed) between Calama and Salta. -IOL Motoring Staff
RESULTS - STAGE SIX
1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (Buggy) 4h52m08
2. Stephane Peterhansel (Mini) +8m36
3. Robby Gordon (Hummer) +13:52
4. Orlando Terranova (BMW) +14:13
5. Leonid Novitskiy (Mini) +15:48
6. Giniel de Villiers (Toyota) +17:17
7. Lucio Alvarez (Toyota) +25:36
8. Ronan Chabot (SMG) +25:53
9. Guerlain Chicherit (SMG) +28:28
10. Erick Wevers (Ford) +30:16
1. Stephane Peterhansel (Mini) +14h36m16
2. Nasser Al-Attiyah (Buggy) +1:18
3. Giniel de Villiers (Toyota) +42:31
4. Leonid Novitskiy (Mini) +44:47
5. Guerlain Chicherit (SMG) +1h16:26
6. Ronan Chabot (SMG) +1h27:52
7. Nani Roma (Mini) +1h30:52
8. Bernard Errandonea (SMG) +1h50:37
9. Carlos Sousa (GWM) +2h02:55
10. Orlando Terranova (BMW) +2h05:27
See the stage summary in the video below: