HAIL, Saudi Arabia: Defending car champion Nasser al Attiyah extended his overall lead in the Dakar Rally by winning Thursday's fifth stage in his Toyota.
The Qatari ace's smooth day contrasted to Daniel Sanders, the overnight leader in the motorcycling category who imploded with a series of navigating errors.
Australian Sanders finished the day in eighth spot overall, 13 minutes and 18 seconds off new leader Skyler Howes of the United States.
Al Attiyah, though, is sitting pretty in the car race with a 22min 36sec lead over Audi's 'Mr Dakar' Stephane Peterhansel, the Frenchman who has a record 14 wins in the race with six on a motorbike and eight in a car.
Al Attiyah's Toyota team-mate Yazeed al Rajhi of Saudi Arabia is just over 27min further back.
"It was a very tough stage," said Al Attiyah.
"We tried to really push like crazy. The other teams have more power and more horsepower, but I'm happy to finish today without any problems.
"It's very hard because the base is that we're pushing a lot and we are really tired."
Peterhansel is still searching for his 50th stage win in the race -- he finished third on Thursday after filling second on Wednesday -- and found the 373-kilometre loop round Hail a tough ask.
"For me, it was one of the hardest stages in my life," said the 57-year-old.
"I don't know why. Something about it was really not nice.
"We took a lot of impacts on the back of our necks, so it was not an easy stage for sure."
Last year's runner-up Sebastien Loeb had another trying day after experiencing two dreadful ones on Monday and Tuesday before a welcome stage win on Wednesday.
However, the Frenchman, a world rally champion for a record nine times, lost another 20 minutes on Thursday after rolling his car.
"I made a mistake on a tricky dune," he said.
"We landed and hit a big bit of camel grass and ended up with the car on its side.
"So, we lost some time for this, but for the rest it was a good stage.
"There was no problem with the car, so that was quite good."
Just so done
Sanders was not the only leader to get lost as Wednesday's stage winner Joan Barreda also lost his bearings in the motorbike race.
However, Frenchman Adrien van Beveren made no such errors, winning the stage a day after celebrating his 32nd birthday.
"It was a tough stage. The navigation was quite tricky," said van Beveren.
"I pushed as much as I could and I finished alone, but it's a good feeling to start as five and arrive with nobody, that's cool."
His Honda team-mate Jose Ignacio Cornejo -- who had selflessly stopped to aid an injured rival on Wednesday -- finished second, just 13sec off the pace.
American Mason Klein enjoyed better fortune than on Wednesday's stage when he was on course to win it until he suffered fuel problems 20 km from home. On Thursday he finished third and is 5min 13sec adrift.
"It was a super good stage. I'm totally spent, though. I'm so tired and my back hurts so bad. The dunes just never stopped," he said.
Klein, 21, is 10min 24sec off Howes, who has Argentinian Kevin Benavides on his shoulder in second, just 2min 32sec behind. -- AFP