Hiroshi Masuoka’s hopes of winning the Dakar Rally for the third year in succession faded after the Japanese Mitsubishi driver finished fifth in the 14th stage on Thursday.

Masuoka completed the 547-km special stage from Ayoun El Atrous to Tijikja in Mauritania in 7 hours, 12 minutes, 12 seconds and slipped 1:04:04 behind overall leader and French teammate Stephane Peterhansel.

French former skier Luc Alphand won the stage, finishing 14:20 ahead of Britain’s Colin McRae while Peterhansel was in third.

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