South African prospect Giniel de Villiers lost ground on a rough day out for the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA team, on Wednesday’s third stage of the Dakar Rally in South America.
De Villiers, lying fourth at the start of the stage, lost time searching for an early waypoint and was later forced to stop on the 364km timed section between Tucuman and San Salvador with fuel pressure problems.
He eventually slipped to 14th place, more than 36 minutes behind French stage winner and defending champion Stephane Peterhansel.
The 44-year-old South African, who won the race in 2009, dropped out the top 10 in the overall rankings, with Frenchman Sebastien Loeb (Peugeot) retaining the overall lead.
Further back, De Villiers’ Toyota Gazoo teammate Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar lost a wheel after a small crash.
Al-Attiyah, who was in second place overnight, ended 31st on the stage and his race for a third title looked to be over.
Spaniard Nani Roma was also forced to stop, but he lost only a few minutes and was able to hold on to fifth position overall, carrying the flag for the Toyota outfit. South African co-driver Rob Howie and Zimbabwean Conrad Rautenbach completed the stage in 25th place.
In the bike division, David Thomas continued to lead the SA charge on his Husqvarna, with his best performance of the race thus far.
Thomas was 26th on stage three, while compatriots Walter Terblanche and Joey Evans completed the leg outside the top 100.
Spaniard Joan Barreda (Honda) took the overall lead in the bike category with nine stages remaining in the gruelling contest.
Co-driver Sean Berriman, the lone SA representative in the truck division, was 27th on the stage with MAN teammates Mathias Behringer and Stefan Henken of Germany.
Thursday’s 521km fourth stage, including a 416km timed section, will take competitors from San Salvador to Tupiza.