11-time champion Stephane Peterhansel held on to his overall Dakar Rally lead despite a barnstorming drive to victory from Nasser Al-Attiyah.
Mini driver Al-Attiyah, the defending champion, took a five-minute bite out of the French Team Peugeot Total driver’s lead with victory in the trek from La Rioja to San Juan.
Sebastien Loeb, the nine-time World Rally champion, continued his recovery after a rocky string of stages to finish second in the 11th stage, some five minutes behind Al-Attiyah with Mikko Hirvonen third.
Peterhansel, who finished fourth in Thursday’s stage, is almost 52 minutes clear of the Qatari Al-Attiyah with just two stages remaining.
“I need to say one more day finished, so it’s not so bad,” said Peterhansel after the grueling stage.
“As for the result, I don’t know, but for sure, this morning we started really safely. We tried to do some really good navigation. It was not easy because there was a lot of navigation. At the end it was really narrow, like a labyrinth, but we are very happy to be here.
“It’s never done: if you have ten minutes, two minutes or one hour and you have a big technical problem then you’re stopped and it’s finished for the overall victory.
“It’s never over. I’ve had some good experiences like that, but also some bad experiences”.
Australia’s Toby Price has one hand on the bikers’ title after a superb second-placed finish behind France’s Antoine Meo.
He leads the standings by 35 minutes from KTM team mate Stefan Svitko.