Stephane Peterhansel took a commanding one hour lead after victory in the 10th stage of the Dakar Rally as the dropouts and retirements mounted on Wednesday.
The Frenchman, who has won the Dakar 11 times across the bike and car categories, won the 278km stage from Belen to La Rioja by five minutes from fellow countryman and Team Peugeot Total team mate Cyril Despres.
He now leads the overall standings by an hour from reigning champion Nasser Al-Attiyah for Mini with the Toyota for Giniel De Villers.
It was a poor day for overnight leader and Peterhansel team mate Carlos Sainz, who saw his hopes of victory all but disappear with a puncture and gearbox failure.
With three stages remaining, Peterhansel is the red-hot favourite to take a 12th crown in the world’s toughest rally raid event.
In the bikes, KTM’s Stefan Svitko took a big chunk out of Toby Price’s overall race lead with victory in Wednesday’s stage.
The Slovakian won by almost three minutes from Argentina’s Kevin Benavides with Price in third, though the Australian still holds a 23-minute lead from Svitko.
STAGE 10 Results
1. PETERHANSEL (FRA), 2. DESPRES (FRA), 3. DE VILLIERS (ZAF)
1. SVITKO (SVK), 2. BENAVIDES (ARG), 3. 3PRICE (AUS)
1. BARAGWANATH (ZAF), 2. PATRONELLI (ARG), 3. PATRONELLI (ARG)
1. DE ROOY (NLD), 2. VILLAGRA (ARG)