Krzyzstof Holowczyc slashed the gap to Dakar Rally leader Stephane Peterhansel by winning the fifth stage of the event on Thursday.
The X-raid Mini driver completed the 110-mile timed section of the stage from Chilecito to Fiambala – shortened by 30 miles due to overnight rain making a section of the route impassable by car – in 2h10m51, almost four minutes faster than his teammate Peterhansel.
After losing the rally lead to the Frenchman and dropping to fourth place overall on Wednesday, Holowczyc's stage victory – his first of the 2012 event – hauled him back up to second; halving the gap to the X-raid team leader from over eight minutes to just 4m18s in the process.
The Polish driver's cause was helped by overnight second-place man Giniel de Villiers coming to a halt 45 miles into the stage and losing almost 20 minutes to his rivals. The delay dropped the 2009 Dakar winner to fifth place.
Wednesday's stage winner Nani Roma was fourth quickest and moved his Mini up to third overall, ensuring that the X-raid team now occupies all three podium positions. He is a little under 11 minutes off the lead and a just over six minutes behind Holowczyc.
Robby Gordon was second fastest through Thursday's stage – the last to be contained solely within Argentina – and maintained his fourth place overall in the Hummer run by his own team.
Gordon's teammate Nasser Al-Attiyah suffered another frustrating day, however. Having lost half an hour owing to delays on Wednesday, the Qatari fought back and was 3m30s clear of his nearest rival at the fourth of five checkpoints today. However, he was forced to stop with less than 20 miles remaining when his Hummer's radiator emptied itself, the resultant overheating triggering the car's emergency cutout. A total of 24 minutes were lost as the system was repaired and the coolant topped up.
The time loss dropped him almost an hour off the lead and left him eighth overall, behind Leonid Novitskiy (Mini) and Carlos Sousa (Great Wall).
There was also bad news for Orlando Terranova, who was a surprise second quickest on Wednesday, as he failed to start Thursday's stage. Organizers have yet to announce whether the Argentinian has withdrawn his Toyota from the event.
Leading positions after stage five:
Pos Driver Car Time/Gap
1. Stephane Peterhansel Mini 11h58m03s
2. Krzysztof Holowczyc Mini + 4m18s
3. Nani Roma Mini + 10m39s
4. Robby Gordon Hummer + 13m32s
5. Giniel de Villiers Toyota + 21m01s
6. Leonid Novitskiy Mini + 30m51s
7. Carlos Sousa Great Wall + 40m55s
8. Nasser Al-Attiyah Hummer + 50m47s
9. Erik van Loon Mitsubishi + 53m33s
10. Lucio Alvarez Toyota + 59m10s