The Qatar Red Bull Rally Team has managed to hold on to its eminent position on the Dakar 2013 leader board, despite a challenging few stages.
Stage five got underway with Red Bull buggy driver Carlos Sainz battling through a spate of recent technical setbacks to claw his way from a 23rd starting position on the stage to gaining the fifth fastest time on the day. Teammate Nasser Al-Attiyah also had a strong stage and despite losing a vital few minutes to a navigation error, managed to maintain his second place in overall rankings.
Al-Attiyah also got off to a blistering start on the 455-kilometre stage six. Starting in seventh position on the field, he and co-driver Lucas Cruz tore through the pack - finishing the stage nearly nine minutes quicker than race leader Stephane Peterhansel. The pair's incredible performance put them just over one minute away from topping the overall rankings but the victory was sadly tarnished after technical problems forced fellow Red Bull Driver Sainz to retire from proceedings.
The Spaniard's buggy succumbed to engine troubles following a week of mechanical issues and he was taken off the stage via helicopter after it became clear he was unable to finish.
Commenting on the loss, Nasser Al-Attiyah - who won the 2011 event - described it as a "big blow" to the Qatar Red Bull Rally Team, but vowed to continue the fight on his teammate's behalf.
"It was great to have Carlos in the race but he just got unlucky today so that is that. We still have one car in this race so I will keep doing my best to bring the buggy across the finish line in Santiago," he said.
Al-Attiyah's expert driving served him and co-driver Cruz well on the winding paths of stage seven as the racers left Chile and took off across the Argentinian Andes. Following his victory the previous day, the Qatari driver opened the field and managed to maintain his lead until the stage's mid-way point. Despite the sublime start, the twisting paths proved too much for Al-Attiyah's two-wheel drive buggy and he finished the day in sixth position.
Stage eight of the 2013 event saw the pair get off to a phenomenal start, standing as the fastest car over the first 100 kilometres before proceedings were called to a halt due to torrential rainfall. Stewards decided that all cars unable to complete the stage should be awarded the same time as the last competitor to finish before it was called off. These revisions allowed the duo to maintain their second position overall, trailing race leader Stephane Peterhansel by a mere three minutes and 14 seconds.
"It was our plan to come to the rest day with the lead but sometimes we must accept what will be. There's still a long way to go at this race and after the rest day, I will start the following stage as the sixth car. This will give me a great chance to make up some time in this race," Al-Attiyah said of the win.
All drivers now enter a well-deserved rest day in Argentinia, but with a further six stages to go before competitors cross the finish line in Santiago, the race is still anyone's game.