After finishing Stage 4 in second place, the Argentine driver was apparently involved in ongoing arguments with his American co-driver Andy Grider (former co-driver for Hummer's Robby Gordon) that came to a head in the evening before Stage 5 from Chilecito to Fiambala got underway. The upshot of the verbal stoush was that Terranova proved to be intransigent and inflexible, making any reconciliation impossible.
"Andy Grider wasn't treated with any respect at all and he left. I've never seen anything like it; it's just crazy," explained Jean-Marc Fortin, the Team Overdrive boss. As a result, the Toyota Hilux No. 308 did not take starter's orders for Stage 5, an amazing, and one would imagine, unprecedented situation.
Amongst those that did take on the challenging stage through the sand dunes of the Fiambala "hell hole" was Krzysztof Holowczyc. The Polish driver, who had just missed a stage win on two occasions this year: in Santa Rosa by Novitskiy; and in San Juan by Roma, was rewarded for his consistency by a prestigious stage victory on exiting the dunes around Fiambala. The day's Stage was shortened due to bad weather conditions. Holowczyc's Stage 5 success means that four of the five Minis in the X-Raid team have now won a stage!
"Because of the rain in the evening yesterday and overnight the sand was not too soft and it was easy to drive," the Pole explained. "Okay, if you are heading down and you accelerate it's not easy to get out of the dip.
"Today 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."
Holowczyc's stage win moves him into second overall, a little over 4 minutes adrift of Stephane Peterhansel (Monster Energy Drink/All 4 Racing Mini).
Today's triumph could have gone to a Hummer, however. Robby Gordon and Nasser Al Attiyah continue to blow hot and cold over the race. Gordon finished the stage only 1'01" behind Holowczyc and is the leading pursuer of the Minis, with his 4th place in the general standings, 13'32" behind Peterhansel. As for Nasser Al Attiyah, he achieved the best intermediate times on the stage, only to be stopped by a broken coolant inlet pipe on his radiator.
"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 again and lost a lot of time," Al-Attiyah explained. The Qatari driver was running strong on the stage until the forced stop, which eventually saw him finish 11th on the stage. Al-Attiyah is now eighth in the general standings.
Away from the dramas surrounding his Toyota compatriot, Giniel De Villiers put in a more measured performance on Stage 5, finishing 9th. The South African lost a good quarter of an hour in Fiambala's infamous dunes, but still managed to hang on to fourth place in the general standings.
"In the second passage of dunes we came over a crest and there was a big hole on the other side. I nearly made it through the hole but we managed to get stuck quite badly and the sand was very, very soft. We had to jack the car up about five or six times just to try and get out and obviously we lost some time there, but that's Fiambala!"
After a blown Turbo on Stage 4, Geoff Olholm (Rabe X1 Desert Warrior) was hit with a 3 Hour time penalty, which dropped the Aussie from 25th to 78th on Stage 5 and 75th overall.
At the conclusion of Stage 5, Peterhansel (Mini) is the overall leader, followed by Holowczyc (Mini), Roma (Mini), Gordon (Hummer) and de Villiers (Toyota) in the top five. Novitskiy (Mini), Sousa (Great Wall), Al-Attiyah (Hummer) Van Loon (Mitsubishi) and Alvarez (Toyota) complete the top ten.
UPDATE: due to heavy snow in the region from Fiambala to Copiapo, Stage 6 has been cancelled. All participants will travel in convoy to Copiapo, rather than take part in the day's Special Stage.
Full results and further details at www.dakar.com