JEDDAH: South African driver Henk Lategan won the fifth stage of the Dakar Rally on Thursday as three-time champion Nasser Al-Attiyah retained his overall lead.
Lategan claimed his first Dakar stage win in his Toyota, finishing one minute and 58 seconds quicker than nine-time world rally champion Sebastien Loeb.
Lategan said a door of his car broke just 10km into the 421km stage, while he also suffered a puncture.
“I still don't believe it,” he said. “I'm not sure what happened. We've honestly had a day from hell...
“It started 10 kilometres from the start when my door broke. It went open and I was driving until the first control point with the door flapping open. Then I managed to solve that, I strapped myself in and couldn't open the door.
“Then we had a puncture, so I had to climb out of the navigator's door and change the puncture. So, we've had just the craziest day. I can't actually believe that we have won the stage. It doesn't make sense.”
Frenchman Loeb, though, still trails Qatar's Al-Attiyah by more than half an hour, sitting second in the overall standings.
Al-Attiyah had to settle for eighth on the day, but only lost 2 minutess and 55 seconds to Loeb.
“We took a few minutes from him. That was the plan in the morning, so we are happy with that," said Loeb. “Big gains were not possible today, for sure.”
The Frenchman continued: “We had a great side by side battle with Nasser, with me catching him and him catching me, and I think we passed each other fifteen times in the stage.
“The car is good and still strong which is why we are in second overall, so I cannot thank the guys in service at BRX, and Fabian, enough,” he added.
BRX team principal Gus Beteli said: “Seb managed to catch Nasser and have a race with him for the majority of the stage, overtaking regularly, trying to pull a gap on him. Finishing second on the stage and ahead of Nasser is what we need to do, little by little.”
The 51-year-old Al-Attiyah, a 2012 Olympic shooting medallist, last won the title in 2019 and has finished second in four of the last six years.
Argentinian Lucio Alvarez reached the finish line in Saudi Arabia third in the stage and remains third overall.
In the bikes category, Italian Danilo Petrucci was awarded the stage after initial winner Australian Toby Price was penalised six minutes due to speeding.
The special stage was halted early due to logistical problems.
Sam Sunderland of Britain, who won the title in 2017, finished 13th on the stage but retains the overall lead.
The 2022 race has been marred by the injuries suffered by French driver Philippe Boutron in a blast being investigated by French prosecutors as a suspected terror attack.
Boutron's son said earlier on Thursday his father had emerged from a coma following the explosion on December 30, days before the start of the Dakar.
* With AFP