Carlos Sainz has moved into the lead of the Dakar Rally for the first time this year after Stephane Peterhansel was delayed on stage five, which was won by America's Mark Miller.
Nine-time Dakar winner Peterhansel had led for the past two days, but had to stop twice during today's Copiapo to Antofagasta stage with transmission problems on his X-raid BMW, delaying him by over two hours.
"It is obviously very disappointing for the whole team," said X-raid team boss Sven Quandt. "Stephane was driving superbly and then we have this unfortunate mechanical problem.
"This was a new prop shaft that we had fitted last night and it failed after 120km today. It is so difficult to drive this stage in two-wheel drive, and just reaching the finish without dropping too much time is an achievement in itself."
That allowed Sainz to move up to first in the overall standings, although the former World Rally Championship star had to settle for second on stage five behind his Volkswagen teammate Miller. Although Sainz closed the gap to the American in the middle of the stage, he then had to change a flat tire, so Miller was ultimately fastest through by 2m10s.
"When we got to the really rocky sections I really was going easy," said Miller, who posted the second straight stage win for the USA following Robby Gordon's pace-setting run on Tuesday. "We had no problems, never got out of the car, and it was a great day. We had discussed that really the Dakar starts today. I think we took off the girlie skirt today, but there were no dunes today and I'm sure we'll have some tough days to come in the dunes."
Miller remains third overall behind Nasser Al-Attiyah, with Peterhansel's problems allowing VW to fill the top three positions – and giving the squad a lead of almost a minute over its competitors – although Sainz is taking nothing for granted yet.
"Obviously the time lost by Stephane Peterhansel is an advantage for us, but it's only the fifth stage of the raid," he said. "There is still a lot to do. Personally, I intend to keep going at my own pace."
After a slow start to the event, the combination of yesterday's stage win and a fourth-fastest time today has moved Gordon (Hummer) up from ninth position to fourth, despite some more problems today.
"I drove off road and got stuck for four minutes early and then lost a belt at the back, so we lost about six minutes, probably," said Robby. "We're definitely in the fight now. With Peterhansel backing up, I think we have a good shot at it. Right now we're all within an hour and that's what we wanted. We're definitely on Hummer terrain now."Stage five results:
Pos Driver Car Time/Gap
1. Mark Miller VW 5h06m15s
2. Carlos Sainz VW + 2m10s
3. Nasser Al-Attiyah VW + 4m27s
4. Robby Gordon Hummer + 4m48s
5. Mauricio Neves VW + 9m21s
6. Guerlain Chicherit BMW + 12m24s
7. Orlando Terranova Mitsubishi + 16m33s
8. Carlos Sousa Mitsubishi + 20m08s
9. Krzysztof Holowczyc Nissan + 25m26s
10. Leonid Novitskiy BMW + 25m38sOverall positions after stage five:
Pos Driver Car Time/Gap
1. Carlos Sainz VW 16h10m51s
2. Nasser Al-Attiyah VW + 4m37s
3. Mark Miller VW + 9m39s
4. Robby Gordon Hummer + 59m55s
5. Carlos Sousa Mitsubishi + 1h13m22s
6. Krzysztof Holowczyc Nissan + 1h16m18s
7. Mauricio Neves VW + 1h20m10s
8. Guerlain Chicherit BMW + 1h27m41s
9. Guilherme Spinelli Mitsubishi + 1h37m48s
10. Stephane Peterhansel BMW + 2h04m49s