Frenchman Stefan Peterhansel has moved into the lead of the rally Dakar after a dismal day for the Volkswagen team, as Jean-Louise Schlesser scored his second stage win this year.
Schlesser, in his Ford-powered buggy, completed the 494 kms of the stage in over five and a half hours, just 13 seconds ahead of reigning champion Luc Alphand in the first Mitsubishi.
Teammate Peterhansel was third some four minutes adrift, but that was enough for the eight-time winner to move into the lead of the event after the top Volkswagen drivers hit trouble.
Mitsubishi, who ironically are yet to win a stage this year, now hold a commanding lead with less than a week of the event to run. Peterhansel leads by nearly eight minutes from Alphand, while Volkswagen's drivers seem to be out of contention.
South African Giniel de Villiers, who yesterday extended his lead in one of the Dakar's crucial stages, lost all his chances of fighting for victory after a malfunction of the turbo set the engine of his car on fire before he reached the first control point.
De Villiers was stranded for a considerable amount of time before his assistance team arrived. His car then had to be towed to the Nema bivouac and, at the time of writing, the Volkswagen driver was still far from the finish line.
The German manufacturer's poor day was made even worse when Carlos Sainz, fourth until yesterday, was hit by electronic problems and was unable to restart his car. Like de Villiers, he is yet to make it to the end of the stage.
The rally will enter Mali for tomorrow's stage, which replaces the Nema-Timbuktu special initially planned but altered due to safety reasons.
Stage 9 classification:
Pos Driver Make Time
1. Schlesser Schlesser 5h32:03
2. Alphand Mitsubishi + 0.13
3. Peterhansel Mitsubishi + 4:14
4. Masuoka Mitsubishi + 8:38
5. Roma Mitsubishi + 14:27
6. Al Attiyah BMW + 14:34
7. Sousa Volkswagen + 30:21
8. Kleinschmidt BMW + 31:09
9. Shmakov Buggy + 31:45
10. Miller Volkswagen + 31:52
Overall standings after stage 9 (provisional):
Pos Driver Make Time
1. Peterhansel Mitsubishi 33h23:43
2. Alphand Mitsubishi + 7:50
3. Al Attiyah BMW + 1h23:21
4. Schlesser Schlesser + 1h25:32
5. Masuoka Mitsubishi + 2h13:44
6. Miller Volkswagen + 2h14:26
7. Sousa Volkswagen + 4h11.29