Despite racing on the rim of a wheel as he lost more ground on the leaders, South African driver Giniel de Villiers clawed his way through the field, settling in fifth place overall with two stages remaining at the Dakar Rally in South America.
De Villiers and co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz of Germany, lying sixth overnight, were sixth fastest in the 449km timed section on Thursday’s 10th stage from Chilecito to San Juan.
After picking up two punctures, the duo opted to push ahead to the end of the stage, and were relieved to make it without any major delays, though they lost a tyre.
“In the end the tyre disintegrated and we ended up finishing the stage on the wheel rim,” De Villiers said.
“It was the right decision as changing a wheel would have taken longer.”
De Villiers was 1:42:54 behind French driver Stephane Peterhansel, who regained the overall lead as the Peugeot team continued to dominate up front.
De Villiers’ teammate Nani Roma of Spain was 10th on the leg, holding on to fourth place in the general rankings to spearhead the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA outfit as they chased the podium in the closing stages of the two-week contest.
South African co-driver Rob Howie and Zimbabwean Conrad Rautenbach finished seventh on the stage, climbing to 11th overall, with a top-10 finish on the cards.
On the bikes, lone SA rider Joey Evans ended 98th of 99 riders on the stage, and he was in 92nd spot in the rankings, more than 20 hours behind fellow KTM rider Sam Sunderland of Great Britain who retained the lead.
The penultimate stage on Friday was set to take competitors 759km, including a 292km timed section, from San Juan to Rio Cuarto.