Spanish veteran Carlos Sainz, the 2010 and 2018 champion, consolidated his overall lead of the Dakar Rally after winning Thursday’s fifth stage, his 34th stage victory in the race being held this year in Saudi Arabia.
The 57-year-old Mini driver clocked 3hr 52min 01sec around the 563km (353km special) route from Al Ula to Hail through boulder-strewn, sandy surroundings including hills occasionally scattered with desert grass.
Sainz finished 2min 56sec ahead of his main rival, defending champion Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar in his Toyota.
Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel, nicknamed ‘Mr Dakar’ for his 13 victories in the marathon rally, followed up on his victory in Wednesday’s fourth stage with a third-placed finish, 6:11 off Sainz’s pace.
There was a second stage victory in the motorbike category for Australian KTM rider Toby Price.
The defending champion came through the finish line 1:12 ahead of Chile’s Pablo Quintanilla, with his Husqvarna teammate Andrew Short of the United States in third (+2:31).
American Ricky Brabec (Honda) finished fourth to retain his lead of the overall standings, 9:06 ahead of Price.
There was drama, however, as Britain’s Sam Sunderland, the 2017 winner and sixth overall at the start of the day, was forced to withdraw from the Dakar after what organisers called a “severe fall” halfway through the stage that left him with back and left shoulder injuries.
Friday sees the cavalcade take on a 830km sixth stage (477km special) from Hail to the Saudi capital of Riyadh before a rest day on Saturday.