Stephane Peterhansel is on the verge of a 10th Dakar Rally victory - and his fourth in the car category - after winning the penultimate stage of the 2012 event and stretching his overall lead to 42 minutes with just Sunday's short finale stage to go.
With a 20-minute cushion despite getting stuck in sand dunes yesterday, Peterhansel had not intended to push hard on today's run from Nasca to Pisco, but ended up winning the stage almost by accident as all his nearest rivals bogged down in the tough terrain.
"It was not a stage we were trying to win," Peterhansel insisted. "First and foremost, we wanted to avoid falling into traps, especially after getting stuck in the sand yesterday. It was the toughest stage of the entire Dakar with regard to the dunes."
His fellow X-raid Mini driver Nani Roma remains second, but is now nearly 43 minutes adrift after getting stuck in the dunes for over 20 minutes. Roma looks assured of the runner-up spot, with Giniel de Villiers' Toyota half an hour behind in third.
A similar dune issue delayed Robby Gordon, and as the Hummer driver pushed to regain time, he rolled his car. Remarkably Gordon was able to continue to the finish of the stage, though he fell behind Leonid Novitskiy's Mini and is now back to fifth in the overall standings.
"I was driving at a high pace when I crossed a dune and suddenly the front of my car crashed into the sand," Gordon explained. "We were stuck and lost 40 to 45 minutes there. In the meanwhile, Stephane overtook us and we set off behind him very quickly.
"Then my car did a somersault, but we put it back on its wheels and continued the special! Incredible!
"I wanted to beat the Minis with a big margin today. Actually, there was a moment when we were leading them by 30 minutes. At least we had fun."
Leading positions after stage 13: Pos Driver Car Time/Gap 1. Stephane Peterhansel Mini 14h28m51s 2. Nani Roma Mini + 42m57s 3. Giniel de Villiers Toyota + 1h15m09s 4. Leonid Novitskiy Mini + 2h12m56s 5. Robby Gordon Hummer + 2h20m05s 6. Lucio Alvarez Toyota + 4h07m03s 7. Carlos Sousa Great Wall + 4h32m00s 8. Ricardo Leal dos Santos Mini + 5h06m09s 9. Bernhard Ten Brinke Mitsubishi + 5h11m41s 10. Krzysztof Holowczyc Mini + 7h02m12s