Carlos Sainz retook the lead of the Dakar Rally on Friday after scoring his third victory of the event in the seventh stage.
The Spaniard, who had dropped to third place on Wednesday, took victory in the special from Mendoza to Valparaiso, as competitors crossed from Argentina to Chile for the first time.
Today's stage was again shortened significantly following the problems the drivers encountered with the high dunes yesterday.
Sainz needed two hours and 35 minutes to complete the special as Volkswagen dominated the day following the exclusion of BMW's Nasser Al-Attiyah yesterday.
"The stage went well," said Sainz. "It was a pretty tough stage, even with some mud patches and puddles that were very slippery. Pretty tough. At the moment everything is going fine for the team."
The Spanish driver finished 3:41 minutes ahead of American teammate Mark Miller, while Giniel de Villiers, who inherited the rally lead yesterday after Al-Attiyah's exit, finished down in fifth, losing the lead to Sainz by just nine seconds.
Miller is now third, 13:53 minutes behind Sainz.
"It was not too bad," added de Villiers. "I'm very happy for the team that we are putting on a great performance.
"Ourselves we had a lot of challenges today. We had a puncture and we lost the gearbox. It was very challenging, but it was not too bad. We made it to the finish and we can continue the next time."
American Robby Gordon took third place in today's stage with his Hummer, ahead of Joan Roma in the Mitsubishi.
The Japanese squad, winners of the last seven Dakar rallies, had another disappointing day, as reigning champion Stephane Peterhansel dropped out of contention.
The nine-time Dakar winner stopped just 57 km after the start and had to put out a fire in his car before he managed to continue. He later stopped again after 80 km due to overheating issues and again later with a broken engine that is likely to put him out of the rally.
Following Peterhansel's problems, and the retirements of Hiroshi Masuoka and Luc Alphand early on, Mitsubishi's best-placed man is now Roma, who is 29 minutes behind Sainz.
The Dakar caravan stays in Chile for tomorrow's rest day.
Stage 7 results:
Pos Driver Car Time 1. Sainz Volkswagen 2h35:27 2. Miller Volkswagen + 03:41 3. Gordon Hummer + 04:13 4. Roma Mitsubishi + 05:37 5. Chicherit BMW + 06:08 6. De Villiers Volkswagen + 07:48 7. Vigouroux Hummer + 11:30 8. Holowczyc Nissan + 13:56 9. Novitskiy BMW + 19:40 10. Van Deijne Mitsubishi + 20:29
Overall standings after stage 7:
Pos Driver Car Time 1. Sainz Volkswagen 23h42:40 2. De Villiers Volkswagen + 00:09 3. Miller Volkswagen + 13:53 4. Roma Mitsubishi + 29:16 5. Gordon Hummer + 1h08:21 6. Holowczyc Nissan + 2h39:32 7. Tollefsen Nissan + 2h59:21 8. Van Deijne Mitsubishi + 5h30:18 9. Zapletal Mitsubishi + 6h25:46 10. De Azevedo Mitsubishi + 9h31:20