Former skiing champion Luc Alphand, driving a Mitsubishi, claimed second place in the seventh stage of the Dakar Rally to move into the overall lead.
Alphand guides his Mitsubishi through the treacherous terrain
Fellow Frenchman and team-mate Stephane Peterhansel won the 310-mile stage from Zouret and Atar in Mauritania in five hours, 52 minutes and 18 seconds.
Alphand was four minutes and 23 seconds behind, with Jutta Kleinschmidt's Volkswagen 11 minutes 49 adrift.
Chile's Carlo De Gavardo won the bikes section for the second day in a row.
De Gavardo clocked six hours, 28 minutes and 11seconds - one minute and 27 seconds ahead of Spaniard Marc Coma, who retained his overall lead.
Reigning champion Cyril Despres, riding with a dislocated left shoulder after a fall on Thursday, was 30 minutes behind the winner.
In the car event, the overnight leader Giniel de Villiers lost his top spot after a navigational error and dropped to fourth.
His team-mate Carlos Sainz's hopes of a debut victory are in tatters after he lost half an hour stuck in sand and dropped to sixth.
"It is nice to be in front at the
end of the first real desert stage," Alphand said.
"I hurt my neck a little and suffered a strain after a heavy landing, but not
too serious. I got stuck four times in total and think we lost around 15
minutes in the camel grass.
"But I am very happy to have arrived in Atar at this time without serious
problems when there are so many teams still in the desert."
Peterhansel, chasing a third consecutive Dakar Rally win, blamed tyre problems for dropping behind Alphand.
"It was a very difficult stage with many sand dunes and some camel
grass. The emphasis was on good navigation and not getting stuck.
"I had a puncture and we lost some time inflating and deflating the tyres. It
was necessary. But it was a very positive day for us."
Results from stage seven between Zouerat to Atar in Mauritania:
1 Stephane Peterhansel (Fr) Mitsubishi 5hrs 52mins 18secs
2 Luc Alphand (Fr) Mitsubishi at 4:23
3 Jutta Kleinschmidt (Ger) Volkswagen at 11:49
4 Giniel de Villiers (SA) Volkswagen at 16:29
5 Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah (Qat) BMW at 33:12
1 Carlo De Gavardo (Chi) KTM 6hrs 28mins 11secs
2 Marc Coma (Sp) KTM at 1:27
3 Giovanni Sala (It) KTM at 2:00
4 Isidre Esteve Pujol (Sp) KTM at 4:29
5 Pal Anders Ullevalseter (Nor) KTM at 13:56
Overall standings (after 7 of 15 stages):
1. Luc Alphand (Fr) Mitsubishi 22 hours 32 minutes 41 seconds
2. Stephane Peterhansel (Fr) Mitsubishi at 3:12
3. Jutta Kleinschmidt (Ger) Volkswagen at 5:58
4. Giniel de Villiers (SA) Volkswagen at 10:04
5. Carlos Sainz (Sp) Volkswagen at 28:41
1 Marc Coma (Sp) KTM 24 hours 45 minutes 23 seconds
2 Carlo De Gavardo (Chi) KTM at 4:30
3 Isidre Esteve Pujol (Spa) KTM at 7:27
4 Cyril Despres (Fr) KTM at 32:39
5 Giovanni Sala (It) KTM at 38:23