The Dakar is known as a race that takes no prisoners, and Stage 5 of the world's toughest motorsport event proved to be a turning point for Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie in their Toyota Imperial Hilux (#327). The pair lost nearly an hour to the leaders on the stage, after an electrical short over the rough terrain stopped the car.
"We started strong, and were 11th-fastest past the first two checkpoints,"
said a tired Poulter after the 458 km stage between Copiapo and Antofagasta.
"But then the engine suddenly cut out, and we spent nearly an hour hunting for the problem. In the end it was an easy fix, and we were back up to race pace immediately."
Despite going strong towards the end of the stage, the pair posted only the 39th-fastest time on the day, and slipped down to 18th overall as a result.
"It was a very disappointing day as far as Leeroy and Rob are concerned,"
said Team Principal Glyn Hall from the bivouac near the seaside town of Antofagasta, on Chile's west coast.
"They made up a lot of ground yesterday, only to lose it again today. This means they would normally have to start in 39th place, but because Leeroy was 9th yesterday - inside the top 16 positions - we can use a joker to re-seed his starting position. Depending on the order Leeroy will start inside the top 20, which means bigger dust gaps. "
Things went significantly smoother for Giniel de Villiers and navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz on the stage, as they posted the 6th-fastest time of the day. They lost 2:20 to the rally leader, Nasser Al-Attiyah (MINI), but remain comfortable in second place in the overall standings.
"We decided not to take too many risks today. It was a long, tough route with many places to get things wrong, and at this stage we need to make sure that we finish each day in a reasonable position, rather than push for stage wins that could ultimately cost us the race, we have to keep in touch with Nassar that is our goal, there are plenty of stage Km's to go"
said De Villiers of his performance.
Next up is Stage 6, from Antofagasta to Iquique, on Chile's far northern coast. The stage consists of 255 km of rocky tracks and massive dunes, split after 69 km by a short neutralisation section of 22 km. The total liaison distance is nearly 400 km, after which the crews will arrive at the resort town of Iquique, which was struck by an earthquake on 1 April 2014.