Japan's two-time defending champion
Hiroshi Masuoka won the 579km, 15th stage of the Dakar Rally.
The Mitusbishi driver finished in 6hr 52min 35sec but team-mate Stephane Peterhansel came second and his 55min 53sec overall lead looks unassailable.
South Africa's Giniel De Villiers was third, driving a Nissan.
Italian Fabrizio Meoni won the motorbike stage beating Frenchman
Richard Sainct with Spain's overall leader Nani Roma third.
Britain's Colin McRae struggled with mechanical problems - transmission failure having seen him stranded in the desert twice earlier in the event.
He was 12 minutes late starting the stage after an electrical problem and then found himself stuck in the African wilderness again, this time with prop shaft trouble.
It meant McRae lost any chance of a decent finish, and prevented him building on a win and a second place in the last two stages.
But Frenchman and overall leader Peterhansel is closing in on becoming only the second competitor to win the Dakar on two wheels as well as four.
He said: "Getting through today's stage without a major problem was the priority.
"But it was a good stage for us. It was long and there were some areas of camel grass, some tricky dunes and some fast sections, but we now have an even stronger position than this morning.
"Still, I will not even begin to think about the victory yet."
Saturday is the penultimate day of the race with a 60km liaison taking teams to the start of a 192km special stage south towards Saint Louis.
A 396km liaison then passes through Rosso and Saint Louis, en route to Dakar.
Leading positions after stage 15:
1. S Peterhansel (Fra) Mitsubishi
50 hours 47 minutes 49 seconds
2. H Masuoka (Jpn) Mitsubishi + 55:53
3. J-L Schlesser (Fra) Schlesser-Ford +2:55:16
4. L Alphand (Fra) BMW +4:04:17
5. A Mayer (Ger) Mitsubishi +5:45:41
1. N Roma (Spa) KTM
53 hours 15 minutes 29 seconds
2. R Sainct (Fra) KTM +7:07
3. C Despres (Fra) KTM + 46:29
4. A Cox (Rsa) KTM +47:12
5. Pal Anders Ullevalseter (Norway) KTM +16:47