As days on the Rallye International du Maroc go, this was a comparatively short one. However, it was just as competitive as always, with competitors driving a loop of three stages around the rally bivouac at Foum Zguid.

From the start the drivers have faced extremely varied terrain, and today was no exception. The first stage finished with a flat-out section that was like a motorway, with the cars kicking up plumes of dust that were visible for miles into the distance.

"Actually it looks completely straight, but the reality from inside the car is that it is not straight at all," said the 1979 World Rally Champion Bjorn Waldegaard, the winner of the final stage yesterday. "You are constantly making little corrections to avoid the holes and rocks in the road. It's hard to put into words the best way to drive this rally, because you have to be fast but slow at the same time. You just get a feeling for the way that the roads are."

Unfortunately, Bjorn didn't get the chance to put his feeling into practice as he was forced to turn back after the opening stage when his Peugeot's rear differential started leaking. With temperatures soaring in excess of 35 degrees centigrade, the wise Swede did not want to take the risk of being stranded in the desert and not finishing the event.

Instead, it was Porsche 911 driver Michele Mouton who won the first stage, and who emerged once again as best performer of the day after winning the final stage as well, run over 91 kilometres through a military area characterised by harsh terrain.

"We had no problems at all, so it was another good day," said the most successful lady in the history of rallying. "The only thing that surprised me was just how rough the road was in places today. This is a real endurance event."

Belgium's Gregoire de Mevius won the middle stage of the day to stretch his lead to more than 15 minutes over Geoff Bell in second, who now has Mouton less than six minutes behind him.

De Mevius, who has previous experience of desert conditions from the legendary Dakar Rally, says that he cannot afford to relax though. "Quarter of an hour is really nothing here," he said. "It can disappear so quickly. A puncture or a mechanical problem is one thing, but the easiest way to lose time in these stages is simply by getting lost. I think this event is as tough for the navigator as the driver, as you really have to fellow the road book carefully."

Kenyan driver Aslam Khan was one of the high-profile victims of the day, who stopped with engine problems on his Ford Escort Mk I after a strong run. He is aiming to make repairs overnight that should allow him to complete this gruelling event. Steve Troman also lost time in his Porsche 911 after losing his way, and dropped to fourth behind John Lloyd.

The sixth day of the rally takes the competitors back towards the bustling port of Agadir. The first stage tomorrow is an old classic that has traditionally been run on the Rallye du Maroc since the 1960s, except this time in the reverse direction: Foum Zguid to Tata.

Three stages will again be run, making a total of 261 stage kilometres and 259 road kilometres.

Top 10 classification after day five:

1 Gregoire de Mevius (B)/Nicolas Gilsoul (B) Porsche 911 9h19m21s
2 Geoff Bell (ZA)/Tim Challen (EAK) Porsche 911 9h35m27s
3 Michele Mouton (F)/Fabrizia Pons (I) Porsche 911 9h41m14s
4 John Lloyd (GB)/Adrian Cavenagh (GB) Ford Escort 10h29m15s
5 Steve Troman (GB)/Calvin Cooledge (GB) Porsche 911 10h38m02s
6 Jac Nelleman (DK)/Joseph Huber (CH) Porsche 911 11h59m43s
7 Frederic Daunat (F)/Guy Chirqui (F) Citroen DS 12h17m35s
8 Albert Michiels (B)/Patrick de Coninck (B) Porsche 911 13h45m57s
9 Derek Melville (GB)/Peter Lythell (GB) Porsche 911 14h09m57s
6 Aslam Khan (EAK)/Ashard Khan (EAK) Ford Escort 14h18m20s 
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