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Al Attiyah back in lead with 4th-place finish

NASSER Al Attiyah reclaimed the overall lead from Carlos Sainz in the fifth stage of the Dakar Rally on Wednesday.

The pair had shared the previous four stages but bowed to Giniel de Villiers of South Africa in the special between Neuquen and San Rafael over the Patagonian steppe.

De Villiers powered his Volkswagen through a swath of troublesome sand dunes to complete the 506km stage in 5 hours, 47 minutes, 43 seconds. He was 2:18 ahead of German teammate Dieter Depping.

"This was undoubtedly the toughest stage so far," De Villiers said. "There was quite a bit of offroad and it was hard to find the right way."

Sainz began the stage with a 3:46 overall lead from Al Attiyah, but made a mistake which cost him his front hood. Sainz finished the stage ninth, but Al Attiyah was fourth in his BMW, and the Qatari grabbed the overall lead by almost 2? minutes on De Villiers. Sainz, Al Attiyah's Spanish rival in the Volkswagen, dropped back to third, 6:33 behind with the race about to reach the Andes foothills.

Defending champion Stephane Peterhansel of France, lost his rear hood in a roll but finished fifth in the stage without a radiator, and was fourth overall, nearly 14 minutes off the pace. The nine-time Dakar winner was contemplating whether to continue.

Marc Coma of Spain continued to lead the motorbike class, but his ample lead over American Jonah Street was slashed from 43 minutes to 27 because of a flat tire.

Earlier, the organizers reported that a French motorcyclist had died of a pulmonary edema.

The body of Pascal Terry, missing since Sunday's second stage, was found near his bike early on Wednesday in dense bush between Abramo and Cuchillo Co.

Julio Acosta, the head of the Pampas regional police, told a local news agency that the abnormal level of fluid in 49-year-old Terry's lungs was brought on by a heart problem. Terry, a first-time Dakar racer, had taken off his helmet and laid in the shade of a tree, race officials said in a statement. Next to his body, police found food and water.


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