With American Mark Miller taking his first-ever Dakar stage win today, Volkswagen took the overall lead on the longest and toughest special stage of the Dakar Rally so far. Three Race Touareg vehicles are setting the pace at the front of the field after five days, both in the stage and overall classifications.
Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz are leading the cross-country classic with an advantage of 4 mins 37 secs. Runners-up are their teammates Nasser Al-Attiyah/Timo Gottschalk, followed with a gap of 9 mins 39 secs by the duo of Miller/Ralph Pitchford. The first five days of the closely-fought rally through Argentina and Chile have seen five different winners.
On the way from Copiapó to Antofagasta, which led across elevations of over 9,500 feet and vast scree fields, the participants contested the special stage that – at 300 miles – was the second-longest one of the rally.
For stage winners Miller and Pitchford, the key to success was a style of driving that was easy on the material as well as consistently fast. The American-South African duo avoided any punctures, which in view of the presence of large and sharp stones in washed-out terrain were almost inevitable.
Thursday brings the sixth leg, Antofagasta to Iquique. The Dakar retains its typical South American character on the sixth day, too: dune passages will again alternate with ground covered with stones and gravel.
Not only will the drivers have to prove their versatility, though. For the navigators, the share of off-road navigation, and thus driving in the compass direction, will increase in the north of Chile.