Defending champion Stephane Peterhansel took a huge step towards his 11th Dakar Rally win on Monday as his main rival Nasser Al-Attiyah struggled during the ninth stage, the longest of the race.
Peterhansel's team mate Nani Roma won the stage - his second of this year's rally and 13th of his career - leading in a Mini 1-2 with 47-year-old Peterhansel - six times champion on a motorcycle and four times in a car - second and Argentinian Orlando Terranova third in a BMW.
Reuters photographer Jacky Naegelen took a big chance to get this shot of Nani Roma splashing through a creek on Stage 9, but the results are spectacular. Credit: Reuters
Al-Attiyah, the 2011 winner, had to stop several times during the stage in his Red Bull Buggy - including one stop just four heartbreaking kilometres from the finish line - and saw his dreams of a second Dakar title dashed.
Peterhansel now has a comfortable lead of almost 50 minutes over his nearest rival, South African Giniel de Villiers in the works Toyota , who finished the marathon 852km stage fifth, less than 10 minutes behind Roma.
Peterhansel said afterwards: "We could have gained even more time, but we would have had to take risks.
"The title's getting closer but there are still a few long stages left that favour the buggies.
"We need to take time whenever we can, because we can always make mistakes in Fiambala or on the dunes of Copiapo." - AFP
RESULTS - STAGE 9
1 Nani Roma (Spain) Mini - 5hr 36min 28sec
2 Stephane Peterhansel (France) Mini +4min 11sec
3 Orlando Terranova (Argentina) BMW +6min54
4 Robby Gordon (United States) Hummer +8min37
5 Giniel De Villiers (South Africa) Toyota +9min39
6 Carlos Sousa (Portugal) GWM +10min23
7 Leonid Novitskiy (Russia) 11min20
8 Geoff Olholm (Australia) Toyota +20min23
9 Matthias Kahle (Germany) Sam-Mercedes +26min44
10 Lucio Alvarez (Argentina) Toyota +27min37
OVERALL STANDINGS AFTER STAGE 9
1 Stephane Peterhansel (France) Mini - 24hr 11min 43sec
2 Giniel De Villiers (South Africa) Toyota +49min 31sec
3 Leonid Novitskiy (Russia) Mini +56min03
4 Nani Roma (Spain) Mini +1hr 34min16sec
5 Orlando Terranova (Argentina) BMW +2hr 01min08
6 Carlos Sousa (Portugal) GWM +2hr 13min41
7 Ronan Chabot (France) SMG +2hr 35min22
8 Bernard Errandonea (Andorra) SMG +2hr 35min40
9 Pascal Thomasse (France) Buggy Md Rallye +3hr 03min32
10 Boris Garafulic (Chile) Mini +3hr 23min30