Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Giniel de Villiers ended the run of three-straight stage victories by teammate Nasser Al Attiyah in Thursday’s fifth stage, on a day that simmering frustrations with the complex navigational aspects of this year’s route through the Saudi desert boiled over for defending champion Carlos Sainz.
Despite leading home Century Racing’s Brian Barawanath by nearly a minute in the 456km/283-mile special from Riyadh to Al Qaisumah, de Villiers still languishes in 12th place overall after encountering numerous navigational issues of his own on earlier stages. While he agreed that the route was tricky he considered the challenges part of a “proper” Dakar.
— DAKAR RALLY (@dakar) January 7, 2021
“I must say that since the beginning things have not really been going our way, but today everything seemed to click,” related de Villiers. “In some places the navigation was really, really difficult. This morning we went a little bit wrong, but not too seriously. Then we just had to manage a slow puncture that we had to inflate. The last 120 kilometers in the dunes was really, really difficult. They were short dunes, but, for sure, it was a proper Dakar stage.
“The navigation is really, really difficult, but it’s probably better in the morning to go a little bit slower to make sure that you get 100% the right course because there are so many tracks and its very easy to get lost. We managed to do a good job today, so let’s hope we can do a few more.”
Sainz, who finished a distant ninth on the stage with his X Raid MINI, was less forgiving…
While still ranking third overall, Sainz lost significant ground to leaders Stephane Peterhansel and Al Attiyah. X Raid MINI driver Peterhansel finished third on Thursday’s stage, leading home his top rival in fourth place, and now leads by 6m11s over Al Attiyah and more than 48m over Sainz.
“It was not easy to open. We saw a lot of bikes coming and we got confused,” explained Al Attiyah. “At the beginning, we lost maybe eight or nine minutes. Stephane did a very good job because he stayed behind me all the way. I’m quite happy to finish day five and tomorrow Stephane will open and it will be easier for me…”
Things are a lot worse for WRC legend Sebastien Loeb, who finished a lowly 20th today. Having fought his way back up to fourth overall after his early problems, the Frenchman has slumped back to ninth in the standings.
In the bikes, Argentina’s Kevin Benavides of the Monster Energy Honda team edged teammate Jose Cornejo Florimo by a minute on the stage to take the overall lead from Xavier de Soultrait (Husqvarna), who finished sixth today, by two and a half minutes.
Among the Quads, Argentines Nicolas Cavigliasso and Manuel Andujar finished 1-2, just as they run overall, with the Drag’On Rally Team rider leading home the 7240 team man by 1m41s today to up his lead to 23m48s.