Lima - Gazoo Toyota Racing SA driver Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar extended his Dakar Rally lead on Thursday after winning the fourth stage from Arequipa to Tacna in southern Peru.
Al-Attiyah completed the 406km special timed stage with a lead of eight minutes and 55 seconds over 13 times winner Stephane Peterhansel, who was ahead of him on the road in a Mini at the start of the day.
Peterhansel finished runner-up in the stage to move up to second place.
"We won the stage, but there is perhaps still a faster car out there. It was very important to catch Stephane and stay with him all the way. I’m quite happy. Everything is okay – there are no problems," said Al-Attiyah.
Thursday's stage was the first part of a 'marathon leg', with competitors not allowed any external assistance until they return to Arequipa on Friday.
South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers, who had already lost four-and-a-half hours on Wednesday’s third stage, after damaging his car on a rock hidden beneath the sand, lost even more time on Thursday after stopping to help team-mate Ten Brinke. De Villiers and navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz spent more than an hour removing damaged parts, but the pair did post competitive times for the rest of the special stage. Now that’s what we call sportsmanship.
Meanwhile nine times world rally champion Sebastien Loeb suffered three punctures and lost 12 minutes to Al-Attiyah, while still moving up to sixth in his privately-entered Peugeot.
Reigning champion Carlos Sainz was 23rd and four hours and 40 minutes off the leader's pace after a nightmare stage on Wednesday.
South Africa’s Shameer Variawa (SVR Red Lined Nissan Navara), to finish 60th in the car category, losing one place in the overall standings - where he now sits in 55th.
Brabec leads bike field
In the motorcycle category, American Ricky Brabec led the field with a two minute, 19 second advantage over Chilean Pablo Quintanilla, the overnight leader.
Australian Toby Price was in third place and ahead of British KTM team mate Sam Sunderland.
Botswana’s Ross Branch came 18th in the stage, moving him up to 24th overall, while South Africa’s Kenneth Gilbert (Husqvarna) came 28th in the stage, and now lies in 27th overall.
Stage 6 sees crews return to the bivouac at Arequipa before Saturday’s rest day.
Sources: Reuters, Motorsport Media & Dakar.com