Krzysztof Holowczyc wins Dakar stage five to close on Stephane Peterhansel
Krzyzstof Holowczyc slashed the gap to Dakar Rally leader Stephane Peterhansel by winning the fifth stage of the event on Thursday.
The X-raid Mini driver completed the 110-mile timed section of the stage from Chilecito to Fiambala - shortened by 30 miles due to overnight rain making a section of the route impassable by car - in 2h10m51,
almost four minutes faster than his team-mate Peterhansel.
After losing the rally lead to the Frenchman and dropping to fourth place overall on Wednesday, Holowczyc's stage victory - his first of the 2012 event - hauled him back up to second; halving the gap to the X-raid team leader from over eight minutes to just 4m18s in the process.
The Polish driver's cause was helped by overnight second place man Giniel de Villiers coming to a halt 45 miles into the stage and losing almost 20 minutes to his rivals. The delay dropped the 2009 Dakar winner to fifth place.
Wednesday's stage winner Nani Roma was fourth quickest top third overall in his Mini, ensuring that the X-raid team now occupies all three podium positions. He is a little under 11 minutes off the lead and a just over six minutes behind Holowczyc.
Robby Gordon was second fastest through Thursday's stage - the last to be contained solely within Argentina - and maintained his fourth place overall in the Hummer run by his own team.
Gordon's team-mate Nasser Al-Attiyah suffered another frustrating day, however. Having lost half an hour owing to delays on Wednesday, the Qatari fought back and was 3m30s clear of his nearest rival at the fourth of five checkpoints today.
However, he was forced to stop with less than 20 miles remaining when his Hummer's radiator emptied itself, the resultant overheating triggering the car's emergency cut-out. A total of 24 minutes were lost as the system was repaired and the coolant topped-up.
The time loss dropped him almost an hour off the lead and left him eighth overall, behind Leonid Novitskiy (Mini) and Carlos Sousa (Great Wall).
There was also bad news for Orlando Terranova, who was a surprise second quickest on Wednesday. He fell out with his co-driver Andy Grider overnight; the pair refusing to work with each other again. As a result, he was forced to withdraw from the event.
<font color='Blue'><font color='Black'>Leading positions after stage five:</font>
<font color='Navy'>Pos Driver Car Time/Gap</font>
1. Stephane Peterhansel Mini 11h58m03s
2. Krzysztof Holowczyc Mini + 4m18s
3. Nani Roma Mini + 10m39s
4. Robby Gordon Hummer + 13m32s
5. Giniel de Villiers Toyota + 21m01s
6. Leonid Novitskiy Mini + 30m51s
7. Carlos Sousa Great Wall + 40m55s
8. Nasser Al-Attiyah Hummer + 50m47s
9. Erik van Loon Mitsubishi + 53m33s
10. Lucio Alvarez Toyota + 59m10s</font>
Stage six of the Dakar Rally is cancelled due to bad weather
Stage six of the 2012 Dakar Rally has been cancelled due to bad weather rendering the route from Fiambala to Copiapo unsafe.
Heavy rain and snow on Wednesday night forced stage five of the event to be shortened by around 30 miles, and with the bad weather continuing after Thursday's action came to an end, yet more of the route has now been affected.
Event organiser the ASO said: "Due to the bad weather continuing over the Andes Cordillera, the Chilean authorities were forced to close, for the night, the border at Paso de San Francisco, situated at 4700m.
"Because of the unfavourable conditions, added to the fact that the course has been hit by rain and snow, the organisers have decided guarantee the security of the competitors and those following the rally."
The sixth stage of the Dakar was due to have taken the crews over the Andes mountains and across the border from Argentina into Chile, with a 170-mile timed section forming the backbone of the 405-mile route.
Instead of the scheduled stage, a convoy has instead been organised to take the car, truck, bike and quad crews over the border.
Stephane Peterhansel continues to lead the event, 4m18s ahead of his X-raid Mini team-mate Krzysztof Holowczyc.