While Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel strengthened his grip on the race, all three Toyota Gazoo Racing SA drivers finished among the top five on Wednesday, after working hard on the fifth stage of the Dakar Rally in Peru.
Dutch driver Bernhard ten Brinke was second fastest over the 268km timed section for the Toyota Gazoo squad, though he was nearly five minutes off the pace of Peterhansel who extended his overall advantage for the dominant Peugeot outfit.
South African contender Giniel de Villiers was third on the stage and Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar finished fifth, as the Gazoo team continued to apply pressure in the chase.
For local hero De Villiers, the stage was actually a bit of a triumph.
The 45-year-old had experienced an extremely frustrating stage on Tuesday, getting stuck with no less than three punctures.
As a result, there were no tyres left on the car.
He was also stuck in the sand and had to settle for eighth.
Despite a fine showing on Wednesday night (SA time), he still noted that the dunes are the “most difficult I have seen in (the) Dakar”.
— Giniel de Villiers (@TheRealGiniel) January 11, 2018
Ten Brinke climbed to third place in the general classification, followed by Al-Attiya in fourth and De Villiers in fifth.
Though the Peugeot team retained control, they took a significant knock following the withdrawal of French driver Sebastien Loeb after his vehicle got stuck, giving the Gazoo outfit a boost ahead of stage six.
Meanwhile, David Thomas was still the best of the SA competitors in the bike division, settling in 48th place overall.
The two-week race will cross the border from Peru to Bolivia on Thursday, with the sixth stage including a 447km liaison section and a 313km special.