The news received shortly before the start of the first real test on this year's Dakar was ominous. Heavy rainfall had forced the organisers to shorten the fifth stage by 24 kilometres. That may sound trivial at first, but it meant that day five of the Dakar began practically directly on loose, sandy ground and with a climb from 1600 metres to 2600 metres in altitude, followed by the dreaded dunes on the way to Fiambalá.
However, even the extremely demanding route could not stop the X-raid team and its five MINI ALL4 Racings today. The stage result says it all: Krzysztof Holowczyc celebrated the stage victory, Stéphane Peterhansel came home in third place, then Nani Roma in fourth, followed by the two remaining MINI drivers in the form of Leonid Novitskiy and Ricardo Leal dos Santos.
The new overall rankings are equally impressive: Stéphane was able to defend his position at the top, while Krzysztof and Nani have now got his back in second and third place respectively. A hat-trick for the MINI brand, while Leonid is just a few places back in sixth and Ricardo has climbed from 30th to 20th place following his mistake on day three of the Dakar.
"Fiambalá is always a very difficult stage but we took our time to navigate well. We never lost the track," said Stéphane at the end of the day while his teammate Krzysztof was beaming about winning the stage. "It was so easy because of the rain the sand was not too soft and it was easy to drive. For sure there were tricky places but in general it was easy to drive. For sure it was a good stage and we are back in the game."
Of Friday's 641-kilometre journey to Copiapó, 247 kilometres are scheduled to be timed. One highlight is undoubtedly the crossing of the border to Chile, which takes place at an impressive altitude of 4700 metres. From there, the drivers head into the rugged Atacama Desert before having to overcome another dune section. Sunday's rest day may not seem so far off now, but no team can afford to take its foot off the gas yet.
Throughout the Rally Dakar, you can keep up to speed with the latest news from the X-raid Team and the five MINI ALL4 Racings on the MINI Motorsport Twitter channel.
The X-raid team is out to extend its winning run at the Baja Poland. Khalifa Al Mutaiwei is aiming to extend his lead in the World Cup. Krzysztof Holowczyc is confident ahead of his home event.
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The X-raid team is taking its next step towards the 2013 Rally Dakar at the Baja Spain. The event is also Stéphane Peterhansel's first start since his Dakar victory in January.
Ultimate cornering, breathtaking acceleration.
A good five weeks after the X-raid team's one-two at the Rally Dakar, the victorious MINI ALL4 Racing cars have finally returned to the team's headquarters. This is the signal for the big homecoming party to begin.
A car built for victory. The MINI John Cooper Works Challenge races across the track at 240 km/h.
Experience MINI John Cooper Works.