Former World Rally Championship driver Mikko Hirvonen claimed his first Dakar stage win on Friday, as Stephane Peterhansel drew closer to a 12th victory in the event.
The outright leaders were content to again drive cautiously through the San Juan to Villa Carlos Paz stage, on which Peugeot driver Peterhansel was 10th quickest.
He maintains a 40-minute outright lead over X-raid Mini’s Nasser Al-Attiyah, who was second fastest on stage 12, with just Saturday’s relatively short run to Rosario to go.
Toyota driver Leeroy Poulter set the pace for the majority of Friday’s stage, but was overhauled by X-raid men Hirvonen and Al-Attiyah in the final miles.
Hirvonen ended up winning the stage by just nine seconds over team-mate Al-Attiyah, with Poulter 45s down in third.
Despite Hirvonen’s stage win, his chance of grabbing third overall in the rally remains slender.
Current third-place driver Giniel de Villiers was fourth fastest on Friday, only 57s down on Hirvonen – which means he retains a 4m26s cushion in the outright battle.
Poulter completes the overall top five heading into the final day, with Sebastien Loeb still ninth and British driver Harry Hunt now established in the top 10.