Two-time FIA Formula One World Champion Fernando Alonso gained valuable experience from his first ever FIA cross-country event and overcame punctures, a front axle breakage and everything that the Moroccan desert could throw at him to reach the finish in 27th position with five-time Dakar winner Marc Coma acting as his co-driver.
"Overall I think it was okay - a positive day. We finished the stage with a couple of issues. We punctured three times and we only had two spares, so we had to wait for a car to ask a favour. We learnt a lot and did some kilometres," said Alonso.
Man on form
Al Attiyah was again the man on form and the Qatari beat last year's FIA World Cup winner Jakub Przygonski by 11min 09sec and title rival Peterhansel by 12min 32sec.
De Villiers reached the finish in fourth place and moved up to second in the overall classification, 17min 09sec behind Al Attiyah, while Alonso was 10th fastest, despite a lowly starting order and having to battle through the dust. Ten Brinke and Van Loon were sixth and eighth, but Khoroshavtsev and Al Rajhi lost time in 19th and 20th.
"We didn't make any navigational mistakes and I was really pushing because we need to see where we are," said Al Attiyah.
"A long day with the new road book system we received in the morning. We were really careful and we didn't make any mistakes because it's not easy to open without having seen the road book. We knew we were losing time but, over the last 70 kilometres, we pushed to try and win the stage," the three-time Dakar Rally champion added.
The final selective section of 168km passed between Erfoud and the finish in Fes and included passages through valleys and across plains with the added challenge of the navigation.
Peterhansel had managed to cling on to fifth overall at the night halt. If he was to finish lower than fifth Al Attiyah could still claim the FIA World Cup title.