Mini driver Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar and co-driver Mathieu Baumel of France compete during the Stage 11 of the Dakar 2015 between Salta and Termas de Rio Hondo, Argentina, on January 15, 2015Mini driver Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar and co-driver Mathieu Baumel of France compete during the Stage 11 of the Dakar 2015 between Salta and Termas de Rio Hondo, Argentina, on January 15, 2015 (AFP Photo/Franck Fife)
Termas de Río Hondo (Argentina) (AFP) - Qatari driver Nasser Al-Attiyah continued his dominance of the Dakar Rally on Thursday as he won his fifth car stage and closed in on a second success after his maiden win in 2011.
The 44-year-old, who won an Olympic bronze in skeet shooting at the 2012 London Games, drove his Mini to a 27sec win over teammate Orlando Terranova, on the 520km route (194km timed) from Salta to Termas de Rio Hondo.
South African Giniel de Villiers in a Toyota was third, 39secs back.
It was the 10th win in 11 stages for Mini who now stand on the brink of a fourth success in the gruelling annual event.
Al-Attiyah now holds an overall lead of nearly 30mins on de Villiers with two days until the finish at Buenos Aires where the race began.
"I'm quite happy today just to finish the stage. It was 194 km of very fast tracks, like a world rally championship race with a lot of spectators.
"We opened the road and that meant we had a good base and we didn't push a lot. We're just trying to keep it like this. It's very hard the Dakar because when we started on the second day it was not easy until today.
"Now we'll try to bring everything back to Buenos Aires and to win this Dakar because it will be very important for me, for my sponsor Red Bull, for Qatar, for everybody who supports me.
"You need to be careful even until the podium. When you finish the Dakar, it's only finished after the podium.”
Defending champion Nani Roma of Spain was unable to start the stage although his chances of winning the race were already beyond doubt.
In the motorcycle category, Spaniard Joan Barreda rode his Honda to a second straight stage win and fourth overall while standings leader Marc Coma comfortably protected his advantage with two days to go.
The riders raced across 523km (298km timed) over fast terrain to Termas de Rio Hondo as KTM rider Coma coasted home in sixth place with the knowledge that his closest rival Paulo Goncalves (Honda) had been penalised 15mins on Wednesday for changing his engine.
"We've managed to get through it but it's always stressful when you have to work on the bike, but everything is ok," said Coma.
"There is still a difficult day to complete tomorrow (Friday) then again on Saturday. I'm not thinking about the finish yet. We'll see, because there are still a fair few kilometres to go, but for the moment I'm happy".
Portugal's Goncalves finished second behind Barreda, who followed on from his stage win on Wednesday, but now trails Spain's Coma by nearly 20mins with Australian Toby Price (KTM) third at over 31mins.
Barreda picks up his 14th overall stage win on the race and would have been higher up the rankings had he not lost more than four hours with mechanical problems on the stage to Chile's Pacific Coast on Monday.
Coma's Austrian KTM team are now just two days from the arrival in Buenos Aires and a 14th consecutive triumph in the gruelling event.