De Villiers in third place on day five
South African driver Giniel de Villiers and his German partner Dirk von Zitzewitz will start Thursday's sixth stage of the Dakar Rally in third position in the overall car classification, after the 2009 champions finished Wednesday's 172km fifth stage between Arequipa (Peru) and Arica (Chile) in fourth place.
The pair remain in the hunt for a podium finish, 33 minutes and 50 seconds behind leaders Stephane Peterhansel and Jean Paul Cottret.
De Villiers is the only South African left in the car section, after the withdrawal of Duncan Vos and Rob Howie with a damaged roll cage on Tuesday.
Wednesday's stage was won by Spain's Nani Roma and Michel Perin of France in a Mini, finishing ahead of their teammates and overall leaders Peterhansel and Cottret.
The competition for stage honours went down to the wire, with just one minute and 51 seconds separating De Villiers/Von Zitzewitz in fourth and Roma/Perrin in first.
There were no changes in the top 10 overall positions, but Argentines Lucio Alvarez and Roland Graue improved by two places to 25th overall, after the disappointment of losing over three hours with damaged suspension on Tuesday.
De Villiers said he enjoyed Wednesday's stage and was able to take in some of the scenery, despite having minor problems with his Toyota Hilux.
“It was not a long stage, but quite fast and twisty at the beginning," De Villiers said.
"We had a small problem with the rear brakes. We lost a bit of rear brake, so we'll have to look at what the problem is tonight (Wednesday night), but other than that it was a nice stage, and beautiful along the beach.”
Meanwhile, Von Zitzewitz shared his driver's sentiments, but added that Thursday's stage would prove to be another difficult day's racing.
“Today was a short stage, not very hard on the car – almost a small rest day," the German said.
"We have a small problem with the rear brakes getting too hot, but the team is doing all they can to fix the problem.
"Today (Wednesday) we could have done a bit better, but we lost time behind Guerlain Chicherit, who was not willing to let us through. Otherwise a very good and enjoyable day for us.”
"Tomorrow (Thursday) will be a very difficult stage, the longest so far this year, but we are in a good starting position. Fourth place will assist to give us lines as well as to identify the soft spots in the dunes."
Thursday's sixth stage from Arica to Calama (both in Chile) consists of a 313km liaison stage and a 454km special stage – the first special stage in Chile and the longest of the rally so far.