While lots of hard work was required for the fifth leg of the Dakar race, there were no real surprises when it came to the results. Most disappointing was Vatanen’s slip to twentieth after his previous stage win.

While lots of hard work was required for the fifth leg of the Dakar race, there were no real surprises when it came to the results. Most disappointing was Vatanen’s slip to twentieth after his previous stage win.

A 575km stage, the route took vehicles from Er Rachidia to Ouarzazate, with the first liaison being 56km on the motorway to the 337km Special. The Special took teams across rocky sections, fast sandy tracks, sand dunes and rolling areas. Then came the Chebbib Erg, the first difficult test for the navigators in the event.

As the veterans would prove, they knew that surprises would exist on the Special route in Morocco. The newcomers fared well considering that a lot of difficulties and surprises met them along the way. After the Special, the riders/drivers made their way to Ouarzazate near the Draa Valley on the 182km liaison.

Race leader, Spanish KTM rider Isidre Esteve Pujol, pulled out a surprise victory on the Special. Pujol has shown his ability on the early stages of the Bike competition and keeps the overall Bike lead by 36 seconds.

"I'm happy. After conquering overall leadership, I clocked the fastest time of the special," a happy Pujol said after the Special. "It shows that everything is working well, especially because it was a very rocky stage with a lot of dust. For quite some time I was blocked behind Alfie Cox, I couldn't overtake him because of the dust. He then made a navigation mistake and I was able to ride my own race."

Joan Roma worked his way through one of the Specials rocky sections to move into second before the final checkpoint, placing him second in the day’s Special. Fourth stage winner, Fabrizio Meoni, finished third on this stage and remains second overall ahead of KTM teammate Cyril Despres.

Richard Saint demonstrated why he won the 2003 Dakar with his come from behind performance due to yesterday's problems on his KTM to finish eighth in the Special today, keeping him in the hunt for the overall win.

South Africa’s Alfie Cox finished sixth, which still places him in fifth position overall. Delighted with the result, he indicated that he is riding a tactical race, though an error early on stage five cost him two valuable minutes.

Overall Car category leader, Stephane Peterhansel, ensured that spot with a win on Monday ahead of his teammate, Hiroshi Masuoka.

"It was a stage that we know well," Peterhansel explained. "I was driving at a consistent rhythm because it was important not to have punctures. I didn't think the gaps would be so big. I thought the Nissans would go full speed."

South African Giniel de Villiers finished over 12 minutes adrift for the third position. Mika Biasion held the position in his Mitsubishi at CP2 but lost it to Gregoire de Mevius' BMW by CP3 as he moved down the leader board on where he finished eighth in his Dakar debut, moving the former World Rally Champion to eighth overall from the second position after yesterday's Special. De Mevius climbed the leader board to third overall.

Masuoka, the 2003 Dakar overall champion, is now second behind his teammate Peterhansel by six minutes and 12 seconds as they head into the sixth stage.

De Mevius was passed by his teammate Luc Alphand after CP3. The Finn finished fourth for the Special with de Mervius in fifth. World Rally driver Colin McRae moved up to a sixth place finish.

Nissan's Ari Vatanen did not fare as well after winning the Special on stage four, as he had to stop just 58km into the Special to repair a front wheel. Vatanen managed to finish in the 20th position, some 35 minutes adrift of Peterhansel.

The sixth stage should present another tough challenge to the drivers as the route leads towards the Atlantic coast to Tan-Tan. The special is 351 km, while the stage itself is 800 km.

High-speed sections and mountains are included in the first part, which change into a very rocky track. First priority for everyone will be to prevent any crashes and maximum concentration is required for this stage.

Original article from Car