After the tyre-wrecking rocks of Stage 2 and the torrential rain on the third stage, the 45th edition of the Dakar had already been living up to its moniker as the toughest rally in the world, but it was Stage 5 that would prove to be the most demanding so far. While it may have been dry, temperatures struggled to reach 15 degrees. When the sun set, windy conditions made the stark desert landscape bitterly cold, with the majority of competitors finishing the stage in the dark.
Thursday involved another loop stage, with a 145km liaison to the start of the 374km special before a 130km return liaison to the bivouac in Ha’il. The timed section consisted entirely of deep, soft sand and extreme dunes, which not only put each crew's navigation skills to the test but took their toll on every competitor, with numerous breakdowns occurring and several cars needing a tow to the end of the stage.
It was the German Fischer and her Swedish co-driver Seel that battled through adversity to end the stage as the leading Yamaha in 16th. This saw them finish as the fastest all-female crew with a time of five hours, 53 minutes and 25 seconds, which means they have moved up to 15th in the general classification.
Ricardo Porém (PRT) and co-driver Augusto Sanz (ARG), who damaged their front suspension in the dunes, managed to repair their SSV to complete the special in 29th position. The Chilean duo of Ignacio Casale and Alvaro Leon were absolutely flying throughout the stage and battling for victory with just a few kilometres to go. Unfortunately, they also suffered a technical issue that saw them lose time, but managed to finish the special in 30th after receiving a tow from a competitor to remain the leading YZX1000R Turbo Prototype in 13th overall.
After claiming the YXZ1000R Dakar project’s first podium on Wednesday, it was a case of a reversal of fortune for the Portuguese pairing of João Ferreira and Filipe Palmeiro, as they showed great pace early on before experiencing an issue with their vehicle, completing the day in 33rd.
The punishing stage continued to take no prisoners as the day went on, with Ahmed Alkuwari Fahad (QAT) and Manuel Lucchese (ITA), along with Dakar legend Camelia Liparoti (ITA) and co-Xavier Blanco both having to be towed from the special, before finishing in 35th and 37th respectively. Despite the day's difficulties, all six crews made it to the end of the stage before exceeding the maximum time limit and are ready to bounce back on Friday.
After such a demanding day, the X-raid Yamaha Supported Team crews now face a modified Stage 6, which has been changed due to flooding at the site of the planned bivouac in Al Duwadimi. Instead of the planned route, they will complete a 285km liaison to the beginning of a 357km special stage before another liaison of 297km to the new bivouac in Riyadh.