Nasser Al Attiyah won his third stage on the 2010 Dakar Rally on Monday and led home another Volkswagen 1-2-3 between Copiapo and La Serena in Chile.
The Qatari and his German co-driver Timo Gottschalk, finished 5m 59s ahead of Spanish team-mates Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz and 7m 38s in front of South African Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz.
First of the non-VWs was the BMW X3 of Frenchman Guerlain Chicherit and Swede Tina Thorner, who were fourth and 10m 13s behind Al Attiyah.
American Mark Miller and his South African co-driver Ralph Pitchford finished fifth, 10m 48s behind team-mates Sainz and Cruz and 6m 38s ahead of the French pairing of Stephane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret (BMW X3).
Volkswagen Race Touaregs still occupy the first three places overall with Sainz in the overall lead with five special stages remaining, 8m 36s ahead of Al-Attiyah and 27m 17s clear of Miller and Pitchford. Peterhansel and Cottret (BMW X3) are fourth, 2h 28m 27s behind Sainz and 1h 46m 35s behind Miller.
Defending champions De Villiers and Von Zitzewitz improved another two places to seventh overall, 4h 36m 28s behind teammate Sainz.
Monday’s special stage was reduced from 338 km to 170 km and the start was delayed from 07,15 to 11,00 as a result of heavy fog in the Copiapo area. The stage was made up almost entirely of the sand dunes around Copiapo.
A total of 211 crews out of 362 starters lined up for the stage, with 94 bikes out of 151, 68 cars from 134, 35 trucks from 52 and 14 quads out of 25 remaining in the race.
“We battled with the navigation a bit today and dropped 10 minutes to Nasser,” said Pitchford.
“There are only five stages remaining, but as we know on the Dakar every day has its own challenges and it’s never over until you reach the podium in Buenos Aires.
“We’re definitely not settling for third place just yet.”
De Villiers commented: “We had another good run today and, although we’re not risking too much, we’re still pushing to try and improve our overall position.
“However, our goal is to finish and be around if any of our teammates needs our assistance.”
Special stage 10 on Tuesday is a 238-km journey from La Serena to Santiago, the capital city of Chile.
It is the last day in the Atacama desert before the rally crosses back into Argentina on Wednesday with a 3 500-metres high traverse of the Paso Libertadores through the Andes mountains. — Sapa