Masuoka beats De Mevius for stage victory

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The Independent Online

As the Dakar Rally reached Africa, the Japanese driver Hiroshi Masuoka won the 31-mile special stage on the fifth day by 31 seconds from the race leader Gregoire de Mevius.

On terrain alternating between sand and forest, less than a minute separated the first four home. Masuoka in his Mitsubishi jumped from fifth to second in the overall standings and is 33 seconds behind De Mevius after a fine day's drive covering 332 kilometres.

Third place went to the defending champion Jutta Kleinschmidt of Germany, with France's Stéphane Peterhansel in fourth.

Finland's Kari Tianen moved into the overall motorcycles lead after a fourth-place finish behind Chile's Carlo de Gavardo, who held off South Africa's Alfie Cox by 34 seconds. The top two set a furious pace and the winner ended up two minutes and 10 seconds clear of the defending champion Fabrizio Meoni of Italy, the third man home.

The overnight leader, Joan Roma of Spain, dropped to third overall after coming home in fifth, 3min 17sec adrift of De Gavardo who is fifth overall, 1:43 down on Tianen.

De Gavardo said: "My machine is going well and I am happy but as I have said before the rally has only just begun."

Today's sixth stage runs for 358 miles through Morocco from Er-Rachidia to Ouarzazate. More than 300 cars, motorcycles and trucks are competing in the 5,850 mile trek through France, Spain and the Sahara. The race finishes on 13 January in Dakar.