Germany's Jutta Kleinschmidt was the first driver to enter Dakar by clinching victory in stage 16 - the penultimate leg of the gruelling rally.
The former champion completed the 191km stretch between Nouakchott and the Senegal capital in a time of two hours, 34 minutes and 49 seconds.
But Kleinschmidt could be stripped of her win because of unauthorised changes to the mechanics of her Volkswagen.
Overall leader Stephane Peterhansel finished in ninth place.
"I'm really overwhelmed with joy and want to dedicate this victory to the whole team as a well-deserved reward for all the hard work they've done," said Kleinschmidt.
"The car, again, was running absolutely perfectly."
Former ski champion Luc Alphand of France took second spot just 59 seconds behind Kleinschmidt.
While Japan's Hiroshi Masuoka, who lies in second place overall, kept up the pressure on Peterhansel by crossing the line third.
Those positions could change, however, if Kleinschmidt's victory is not allowed to stand.
The German altered her car in January before the start of the rally and the French Automobile Federation are currently examining her appeal against her suspension from the race.
Britain's Colin McRae finished back in 15th place in his Nissan, more than 38 minutes off the pace.
In the motorbike section, defending champion Richard Sainct took stage 16 in a time of two hours, 12 mins and 48 secs.
But Spain's Nani Roma holds a five-minute advantage over Sainct at the top of the overall standings.
Leading positions after stage 15:
1. Stephane Peterhansel (FRA) Mitsubishi
53 hours 28 minutes and 32 seconds
2. Hiroshi Masuoka (JPN) Mitsubishi + 51:23
3. Jean-Louis Schlesser (FRA) Schlesser-Ford + 3:03:47
4. Luc Alphand (FRA) BMW + 3:59:22
5. Andrea Mayer (GER) Mitsubishi + 5:48:24
1. Nani Roma (SPA) KTM 55 hours 39 minutes 22 seconds
2. Richard Sainct (FRA) KTM + 5min 02 sec
3. Cyril Despres (FRA) KTM + 46:48
4. Alfie Cox (RSA) KTM + 49:47
5. Pal Anders Ullevalseter (NOR) KTM + 2:06:40