The Dakar Rally is well into Chile. All classes had to contend with towering sand dunes and treacherous fesh-fesh areas. The latter makes for spectacular images but can really ruin a competitor’s day; and from the growing Withdrawals List, many brave racers are going home early. #164 Antonio Narino, the USA’s lone Bike entrant, was bested by stage 4. He tweeted the following updates yesterday, “Stage 4 was rough. At 46 K , two bikes hit a horse. We had minimal visibility. Altitude hit me. Had to stop and sleep by the side of the road. With 100k remaining had a hard high speed crash. A second crash on dunes, I could no stand up for my self. Thanks all.” It was a valiant effort by the privateer who raced in his first Dakar Malles-Moto.

Of the remaining riders, Team HRC’s #2 Joan Barreda Bort is still the man to beat with a 00:10:33 lead over #1 Marc Coma from the Red Bull KTM Factory Team. Coma is catching up and beat Barreda Bort to win the stage. #31 Pablo Quintanilla gave the Chilean fans something to cheer for as he took 3rd on the stage and has moved up to 4th overall. Now’s the time for him to pluck up some courage because he has to face stage 6, which is when an accident took him out of the 2013 race. Incidentally he abandoned last year due to an injury too in stage 3. Let’s hope that’s the end of sad stats for him. Another Chilean rider, #12 Jeremias Israel Esquerre, finished 7th and moved up to 12th overall. This is his third Dakar Rally and marks his return after a terrible crash in last year’s race that left him with multiple fractures in both arms after colliding with a rocky outcrop. He’s also switched from a Speedbrain Team to a Honda. So far, so good for another rider looking to show the world what he’s made of. Quintanilla and Esquerre assuage their countrymen who feel Chaleco Lopez’s absence this year.

Andrey Karginov - Dakar Rally 2015 Stage 5
Andrey Karginov races during the 5th stage of Rally Dakar 2015 from Copiapo to Antofagasta, Chile on January 9th, 2015 (Photo Credit: Marcelo Maragni/Red Bull Content Pool)

Team HRC’s #7 Paulo Goncalves is holding fast in 3rd overall with a whopping 00:22:50 behind Barreda Bort. Goncalves was 5th on the stage but has more work to do if he hopes to be a valid threat to Coma or his own team mate. The top ten bikes consist of three Hondas and seven KTMs. #5 Hélder Rodrigues is the third Team HRC rider and is hanging on to 10th with #14 Alain Duclos breathing down his tail light. Duclos has returned to South America with the Sherco TVS Rally Factory team and done a great job representing his manufacturer in the midst of this close Honda/KTM battle. Team HRC’s #29 Laia Sanz slipped down to 17th overall after finishing the stage 19th but is still holding her own. #10 Juan Pedrero Garcia remains the highest ranked Yamaha rider at 13th overall for Pont Grup-Yamaha-JVO Racing. His bike was struck by a rock that put a hole in his fuel tank. He said, “I stopped for about four minutes to try and stop it leaking too much and then carried on to the refuelling CP. As I arrived I ran out of petrol! I was shaking the bike to get the last drops out of the tank. Then after the refuelling I started to run out of petrol again when I saw some spectators. I rode up to them and told them I was a friend of Chaleco Lopez (a famous Chilean rider who retired this year) and they gave me some fuel. Then in the canyon at the end I really attacked hard and pulled back some time. I was unlucky to put a hole in my petrol tank at the start of the special but very lucky to get to the end!”

Qatar Rally Team’s #501 Nasser Al-Attiyah and Matthieu Baumel are still atop the Car class despite finishing today’s stage in 4th place. However according to Al-Attiyah that was their plan all along, “I hope I did not win the stage because tomorrow will be a very difficult stage and I’d like somebody else to open the stage.” As a result the first car to start tomorrow will be another Mini, #310 Vladimir Vasilyev and Konstantin Zhiltsov, the 2014 FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies champions, who are now 7th overall. #325 Yazeed Al Rajhi and Timo Gottschalk were only twenty seconds behind them in the Yazeed Racing Toyota Hilux. Al Rajhi said yesterday, “It’s the first year for me with no experience. All the guys here have done the Dakar a lot of times with lots of tests. They live with the car. For me, this is a new car and it was the first time I drove it on the first stage.” If this is beginner’s luck then it’s one of the most amazing cases in Dakar Rally history because they’re currently third overall and ruining the Mini squad’s hope for an all-Mini podium.

Nasser Al-Attiyah - Dakar Rally 2015 Stage 5
“It was not an easy stage, you know. We drove all the way until the last 10 km with a flat tyre, so we decided to change the wheels. I don’t know if we went slowly from the beginning, but the stage was really hard, not easy, with a lot of fesh-fesh. I’m quite happy to finish the stage with just one puncture and without any trouble with the car. Mathieu navigated really well and I’m quite happy.” – #501 Nasser Al-Attiyah (Photo Credit: Marcelo Maragni/Red Bull Content Pool)

The other car is #303 Giniel De Villiers and Dirk Von Zitzewitz’s Toyota Hilux. While second may be acceptable at this time, De Villiers wants to win. Although a puncture tire on today’s route didn’t help his cause very much. They finished the stage 6th and are only 00:10:35 behind Al-Attiyah to snatch the class lead. Both of these drivers have one Dakar Rally win apiece, and are hungrier than ever for victory this year. While Minis and Toyotas are duking it out, Team Peugeot Total is officially one car down. #304 Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz have now joined the infamous Withdrawals List. According to an official team release, their car hit a rock after losing visibility in the dust from a quad. The car rolled five times and was damaged beyond repair. “I’m very disappointed, particularly after the mechanics worked for half the night last night when we finally got to the bivouac at 3:30am,” said Sainz. “It’s always terrible to retire under any circumstances, but this is what disappoints me most.” This is the fourth abandonment for the Spanish driver in his eight Dakar Rallies which includes a win in 2010. #322 Cyril Despres and Gilles Picard lost a wheel which put them 77th for the stage and 50th overall. Now Team Peugeot Total’s hopes rest on Mr. Dakar’s shoulders. #302 Stéphane Peterhansel with Jean-Paul Cottret are ninth overall, 01:19:17 behind Al-Attiyah. A fifth-place stage finish shows that Peterhansel is getting the hang of the new car but it would take a lot to outdo the Minis and Toyotas on their first go.

Victory is out of reach for two cars but they’re still performing as best as they can: #300 Nani Roma with Michel Périn and #308 Robby Gordon with Johnny Campbell. Roma and Périn are 09:24:06 behind the leader. It would take a flurry of miracles and mishaps for them to get into the top ten. Despite disastrous early days and now assuming the role of carrying extra parts for Mini teammates, they finished the stage in 8th place. That’s three top ten stage finishes in a row! Gordon and Campbell are in a slightly better position. Their deficit is 05:45:46 and they finished stage 5 in 3rd, which puts them 32nd overall. If the Gordini’s mechanical issues have all been sorted, then it’s possible for the Americans to storm back into the top twenty at least. #330 Romain Dumas and Francois Borsotto are still very much in the race with MD Rallye Sport’s MD 04 Optimus. They were 33rd on the stage and regained 41st overall. Yesterday we told you that #354 Tom Coronel was removed from the Withdrawals List but didn’t have any more confirmed information beyond that. There was some contention with the officials and Tom was eventually allowed to continue racing as the video below shows. He finished stage 5 in 79th place and was given a 1hr penalty.

Quad class leader #251 Rafal Sonik dropped the proverbial hammer on this stage to not only win but stretch his overall lead. Defending champ #250 Ignacio Casale has been trying to close the gap after mishaps and a 20 min penalty, but Sonik is 00:24:23 ahead of the Chilean with no intention of letting up. In fact #252 Sergio Lafuente is closer to passing Casale, than Casale is to passing Sonik. Argentinean teenager #261 Jeremias González Ferioli took third on the stage, moving up to 4th overall from 7th. You might think he’s a threat to Lafuente but the kid is over an hour behind the Uruguayan. Qatari rider #253 Mohamed Abu Issa suffered an engine failure according to and has officially withdrawn from the race. It’s a pity as he was doing quite well and the highest-ranked Honda rider. At this time the top five Quads are all Yamahas.

The Kamaz Master band is breaking up, in the top five spots of the Truck class anyway. #503 Ales Loprais and his Instaforex Loprais Eurol Veka Man are now 3rd overall after finishing 4th on the stage but it won’t last. He’s only eight seconds ahead of defending champ #500 Andrey Karginov. That doesn’t mean Loprais isn’t a threat but he’s going to need a bigger gap to make the Russians nervous. Their man on top is #502 Eduard Nikolaev who won the stage decisively and now has an overall lead of 00:08:01. #507 Airat Mardeev was second on the stage and holds the same place overall. Maz-Sportauto’s #510 Siarhei Viazovich closely beat out Loprais to take the stage’s third place and sixth overall. #501 Gerard De Rooy’s stage 4 stats have finally been listed. He finished 40th and plummeted to 32nd overall. The climb back up has already begun in stage 5 where he finished 9th and now holds 28th on the leader board. #504 Hans Stacey of the Petronas Team De Rooy Iveco struggled on the stage too finishing 15th, going from 5th to 7th overall. For stage 6, competitors will be racing up the Pacific coast to Iquique where a podium in the city’s center marks the race’s halfway point. It will surely be a fantastic experience for the racers and their fans alike.


A Final Word

We’ll publish a stage 6 recap and encourage you to set your DVRs for NBC Sports Network’s “The Dakar Rally” with Leigh Diffey. It’s not the same as being there but offers video footage and stories you probably haven’t seen before. Of course you can’t go wrong with the Dakar Rally’s official online resources:

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