Vladimir Vasilyev and his co-driver Konstantin Zhiltsov in the MINI ALL4 Racing have won stage five at the 2015 Dakar Rally. The two Russians, who won the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies in the MINI ALL4 Racing in 2014, turned out to be the best navigators on the challenging 458 kilometre long special stage, moving up four places in the overall classification. They are now in a strong seventh position.

Nasser Al-Attiyah/Mathieu Baumel (QT/FR) were fourth quickest today and extended their lead in the overall classification. The experienced offroad duo, which finished 3rd overall last year, is now 10:35 minutes ahead of their closest rivals De Villiers/Von Zitzewitz.

On leg five the Dakar had to master the unforgivable Atacama Desert in Chile. The 697 kilometre-long route lead from Copiapo to Antofagasta. The special stage was held on loose gravel as well as huge dunes with extremely fine “fesh fesh” sand at an altitude of up to 3,000 metres above sea level. The constantly changing soil was extremely demanding for the tires, thus a lot of drivers suffered tire failures.

“The stage was really hard – not easy – with a lot of fesh-fesh,” Al-Attiyah said. “In the last 10 kilometres we got a flat tyre, so then we changed the wheel, it only took us 1m35s which is quite fast. I’m quite happy to finish the day with just one puncture and without any trouble with the car. I’m glad I did not win the stage, because tomorrow will be very difficult and I would like someone else other than Mathieu and myself to open the road.”

MINI made the best out of the tough conditions and finished the day on a high note: Six MINI ALL4 Racing cars were within the top ten, including Krzysztof Holowczyc/Xavier Panseri (PL/FR) who were seventh quickest and moved up to fourth place overall.

“We had a trouble-free day and did not even encounter a puncture,” Holowczyc said. “Some sections of the stage represented a tough test for the body as the car was given a good shaking. But there also were nice technical and flowing sections that were big fun.”

Joan ”Nani” Roma (ES) and his co-driver Michel Périn (FR) finished in 8th position. Roma said: “We had three punctures during the final kilometres. One in the dust of Orlando, and the other two slightly later. Very annoying as the MINI ran really well, apart from the punctures.”

Erik van Loon/Wouter Rosegaar (NL/NL) were in ninth moving up another place in the overall classification. They are now in an excellent fifth position. Orlando Terranova/Bernardo Graue (AR/AR) in the MINI ALL4 Racing completed the top ten today. “Actually, it was a really nice stage but it also was dangerous as the air was filled with dust,” Terranova said. “Therefore, overtaking was really difficult.”

Leg six on Friday will lead from Antofagasta further north to Iquique. The 277 kilometre long stage six will be comparatively short but very intense. The drivers have to master large dunes with fine sand again. Navigation will be the key factor to success as many of the dunes will look the same.

Overall classification after leg 5 (Top 5).

01 Al-Attiyah/Baumel – MINI ALL4 Racing – 16:53:26h
02 De Villiers/Von Zitzewitz – 17:04:01h
03 Al Rajhi/Gottschalk – 17:13:55h
04 Holowczyc/Panseri – MINI ALL4 Racing – 17:42:21h

05 Van Loon/Rosegaar – MINI ALL4 Racing – 17:46:51h

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