Loeb back in control as he takes Stage 5 Dakar victory

by Vince Pettit

After losing out to his two team-mates on Stage 4, Sébastien Loeb once again took control of the 2016 Dakar by beating Carlos Sainz to the stage victory by 22 seconds.

“Yesterday we had to look after the car a bit but today we were able to attack more,” said Loeb. “Carlos took a bit of time back from us in the last part of the stage. He must have been pushing hard!”

Despite his exceptional pace in the rally so far, Loeb remains grounded and knows there is still a lot that can go wrong, “Daniel [Elena] did an excellent job today but we know that what’s coming next won’t be easy. In fact, a lot more complicated. We’ll have to be first on the road on stages where the navigation is extremely tricky.” he added.

Since the second stage of the rally where he lost 15 minutes, Sainz has been playing catch-up; the time on Stage 5 has helped the Spaniard make in roads again as he moves ahead of Nasser Al-Attiyah in the overall standings to consolidate Team Peugeot-Total‘s 1-2-3 position.

“We end the second part of the marathon stage in second place,” said Sainz. “The car worked well even though there was no service yesterday but tomorrow will be an important day. It’s going to be the longest stage of the rally and it will take place at extremely high altitude, which will be a big test for the engines.” he added.

Stage 4 winner Stéphane Peterhansel lost time early in the stage with mechanical problems but managed to wrestle his Peugeot 2008 DKR in to third place overall, 3 minutes behind Loeb, but more importantly 7 seconds ahead of Al-Attiyah.

“It wasn’t really a problem to be first on the road today because we’re still on quite clearly-marked roads, where navigation isn’t so much of an issue,” said Peterhansel. “However, we had a small problem coming out of parc ferme. We didn’t have all the power from the car at low revs.

“So we struggled a bit in the first part of the stage, which was very twisty. As a result, we lost a bit of time to the ‘traditional’ rallymen like Sebastien and Carlos. Today has been all been about damage limitation really while we wait for better days.”

Dakar veteran Stephané Peterhansel - Credit: Flavien Duhamel/Red Bull Content Pool

Dakar veteran Stéphane Peterhansel – Credit: Flavien Duhamel/Red Bull Content Pool

Peugeot’s fourth driver Cyril Despres lost power during the stage and would finish 1 hour 15 minutes down, “Everything was going well until kilometre 140, when we felt a loss in power that got progressively worse,” said Despres. “And so we finished the stage about an hour and a quarter behind the leaders, whereas we were just within a few minutes of them before the problem. But the main thing is that we’re safely back in the bivouac now and able to continue.”

Peugeot Sport Director Bruno Famin added “We’re obviously very happy to deliver another one-two-three and to have three cars in the top three places overall after the marathon stage. Nonetheless, the problem encountered by Cyril and David is a timely reminder for us to keep our feet on the ground – as well as some small problems that we had with overboost management on Seb’s and Stéphane’s cars. The only sure thing about this Dakar is that there will be many more trials to come!”

MINI ALL4 Racing’s Al-Attiyah chased the Peugeot trio across the mountains to Bolivia but could only manage fourth place, “We do our best and try to push,” said Al-Attiyah. “But it really was not easy to follow because the front car is quite fast. But we are happy with what we do until now. There’s still a long way to go and I hope to have a good result. We will continue to push and push.”

Former WRC driver Mikko Hirvonen finished the stage in sixth place to consolidate seventh overall, “I’m quite happy with this stage,” he said. “We had one puncture and lost a little time and then we stayed a long time in the dust of other competitors. So we could have, I think, been two or three minutes faster. I’m definitely driving more bravely than yesterday. Learning, improving… it all makes for a better stage. I enjoyed today’s stage the most so far.”

Sheldon Creed found an innovative way to deal with no windscreen wipers - Credit: PlanetGordon.com

Sheldon Creed found an innovative way to deal with no windscreen wipers – Credit: PlanetRobby.com

American driver Robby Gordon took his best finish of the rally so far as he come home in eighth place, but lost time early after being stuck behind Orlando Terranova. Team mate Sheldon Creed had a stage to remember, after getting a good start he overtook three cars, unfortunately he would lose out when he suffered a flat tyre and was forced to change it. This was only the start of his problems though; As the rain came in once again, which normally wouldn’t be a problem, but Creed’s windscreen wipers had stopped working on stage four and mechanics weren’t allowed to work on the car between stages. As the screen fogged up Creed’s vision was impared, Creed and co-driver Jonah Street opted to kick a hole in the glass to free up an area to see clearly and go on to finish the stage in thiry first place.

WRC regular Martin Prokop battled on in his damaged Toyota Hilux following his Stage 4 flip to finish eighteenth place and consolidate his sixteenth place overall.

Toby Price en route to another stage win - Credit: Flavien Duhamel/Red Bull Content Pool

Toby Price en route to another stage win – Credit: Flavien Duhamel/Red Bull Content Pool

Toby Price took control of the Bike category in Stage 5 as he powered his KTM to victory, the Australian now resides in third place overall, just 1 minute 47 seconds off the pace of category leader Paulo Goncalves who was suffering from altitude problems.

“It was a really difficult marathon,” said Goncalves. “The altitude gave me a headache, but even so, I’m fairly happy with the way that it went, because the bike held up really well and I clocked up a good time. There is a great stage awaiting us tomorrow. Let’s see what happens, but right now I need some rest. Today, the first and last 100 km were demanding for the navigation, but I managed to make it through.”

In the Truck category Russia’s Eduard Nikolaev took the stage win after battling with Martin Kolomy. Previous leader Pieter Versluis finished the stage in sixth place and would lose the overall lead to Federico Villagra who powered his Iveco truck to third place on the stage.

Quad bike frontrunner Ignacio Casale suffered engine problems that would drop him down the overall order to fourteenth as he finished the stage in twenty ninth place. Alexis Hernadez would take the stage win, but it was Russian rider Sergei Karyyakin who moved in to the overall lead with his third place finish.

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