Poland’s Krzysztof Holowczyc, in a Mini, won the stage between Chilecito and Fiambala ahead of American Robby Gordon, with Stephane Peterhansel coming in third to maintain his lead atop the overall standings.
Holowczyc finished the 153km special in 2hr 10min 51sec, 1:01 in front of Gordon, with Peterhansel, a six-time Dakar motorcycling champion and three-time car winner, at 3:52.
“It was so easy because of the rain in the evening yesterday and overnight the sand was not too soft and it was easy to drive," said Holowczyc.
“We decided to attack properly, though we went off the road and couldn’t see the road at times. For sure it was a good stage and we are back in the game."
Peterhansel added: “Fiambala is always a very difficult stage. This morning we started first, so opening the road was not good, but we took our time to navigate well.
“We never lost the track. Sometimes we lost a little time, but we never took the wrong turn. In the end we didn’t do the best time, but a decent time I think."
The Pole now stands second behind Peterhansel in the overall standings at 4:18, but al-Attiyah’s radiator woes, which hit when he was well set for a possible victory after notching up the best intermediate times on the stage, left him in eighth place, a huge 50:47 off the pace.
“The spare wheel was loose and it hit the engine water pipe, breaking it and after the temperature was very high, so we stopped to repair it again and lost a lot of time," he said.
“But what can I do? I was really having a good run, I was doing my maximum but I don’t know what’s wrong.
“My plan today was to take at least 10 minutes from everybody and that’s what was happening because I was really fast until control point 2.
“But after, we stopped there because we needed water and to fix and prepare the car. So, yes, I’m disappointed again!"
French KTM rider Cyril Despres clocked 2hr 28min 33sec to win the motorbike section ahead of Spanish rival Marc Coma and consolidate his overall lead in the grueling race to 9min 51sec over the Spaniard.
Friday’s sixth stage sees competitors travelling 247km from Fiambala across the Andes to Copiapo, Chile, a town which made media headlines in 2010 when 33 miners remained blocked underground for 69 days.