Russian driver Vladimir Vasilyev maintained defending champions Mini’s monopoly of the Dakar Rally Thursday, the manufacturer making it five stage wins in five on the shores of the Pacific Ocean.
But Carlos Sainz, the 2010 champion, retired from the race after rolling and destroying his troubled Peugeot.
Vasilyev clinched the 458km run from Chile’s Atacama desert, the driest place on earth, to the coastal stop of Antofagasta.
The Toyota of Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Alrajhi was second on the stage — just 20 seconds behind — to remain third in the overall standings. The Hummer of America’s Robbie Gordon was third on the day.
Mini’s Qatari driver Nasser Al-Attiyah, the 2011 champion and overall leader, was fourth Thursday with 11-time champion Stephane Peterhansel in a Peugeot a place further back.
For the first time in the 2015 race, South Africa’s 2009 champion Giniel de Villiers failed to finish on the podium. However, the Toyota driver, sixrh on the day, remains second overall.
â€œIt was not an easy stage. We drove all the way until the last 10km with a flat tyre, so we decided to change the wheel,” said Al-Attiyah, who still managed to extend his lead by a further two minutes.
“We changed the puncture in 1 minute 35 seconds which is very fast.”
Sainz, recruited by Peugeot to spearhead the French manufacturers’ return to the event after a 25-year absence, called it quits.
Having lost more than nine hours on Wednesday’s fourth stage across the Andes and over the Atacama because of a steering problem, the Spaniard’s vehicle was wrecked after rolling five times.
It was a problem too far for Sainz who had earlier limped into the overnight halt at Copiapo at 3:30 in the morning.
Teammate Cyril Despres, a five-time champion on two-wheels, added to Peugeot’s misery when a clutch failure, which cost him four and a half hours on Wednesday, was followed by a barrel-roll which delayed his fifth stage efforts.
Four-time motorcycling winner and defending champion Marc Coma claimed his first stage victory of the 2015 edition, finishing the run to Antofagasta ahead of compatriot and overall leader Joan Barreda.
Just as he had done on the fourth stage on Wednesday, Chile’s Pablo Quintanilla took third spot.
KTM rider Coma took 2min 16sec out of Honda star Barreda’s overall lead.
But Barreda still boasts a lead of more than 10 minutes while Portugal’s Paulo Goncalves, also on a Honda, remains third in the standings after finishing fifth on the stage.
“It was a very tough stage. There was fesh-fesh all the time and in the fesh-fesh you cannot see the stones and it is not comfortable to ride,” said Coma in reference to the fine sand that can clog machines and obscure views.
“You are always having to pay attention. It’s going to be very difficult to take time from Joan, but, you know, we have a lot of racing in front of us. There’s the second part of the rally and we’ll have two marathon stages.
“We will try like hell until the last day. We know that Joan is very fast and that he has a very high level, but we will try, for sure.”
Spain’s Laia Sanz, the leading female rider, was 20th on the stage to stand at 12th overall after losing 26 minutes.