Stephane Peterhansel edged closer to a 10th Dakar Rally victory as Robby Gordon and Krzysztof Holowczyc, his two nearest rivals at the start of the day, suffered a variety of afflictions on stage 10.
Gordon lost more than 11 minutes on the special stage when he went off track and damaged the front left of his car. Such woes were then compounded by news that stewards had decided to disqualify his Hummer for technical non-compliance after stage nine. Gordon has appealed, and will continue to compete in the rally until the outcome of the appeal is announced.
Gordon's stage 10 woe came during a direct fight with overall leader Stephane Peterhansel. The NASCAR and off-road racer was first to start the run from Iquique to Arica, but was reeled in by Peterhansel – the pair trading the role of running first on the stage several times before Gordon's crash.
"I hit a rock with both right-side tires and we've got some broken parts," Gordon said after the stage. "Do I think I can win again? Of course.
"I was passing him [Peterhansel], he didn't move over and I clobbered a rock and got two flat tires at the same time. So, we've got our work cut out for us."
Peterhansel's bid to clinch the 2012 Dakar crown was also boosted by mechanical issues for his Mini teammate Krzysztof Holowczyc, who suffered power steering failure 50km into the stage. He was able to get going but stopped again 35 minutes into the special stage, effectively ending his 2012 bid.
As Holowczyc suffered, the third Mini of Nani Roma took its third stage victory of 2012 to move into second in the overall standings.
Roma was also able to take 21 seconds out of Peterhansel's lead, but he still lies over 19 minutes behind his Mini stable mate. Gordon is the only other driver within an hour of the lead.
Leading positions after stage 10:
Pos Driver Car Time/Gap
1. Stephane Peterhansel Mini 28h41m12s
2. Nani Roma Mini + 19m05s
3. Robby Gordon Hummer + 19m51s
4. Giniel de Villiers Toyota + 1h01m33s
5. Leonid Novitskiy Mini + 2h00m55s
6. Carlos Sousa Great Wall + 2h27m53s
7. Lucio Alvarez Toyota + 3h24m58s
8. Ten Brinke Mitsubishi + 3h58m22s
9. Erik van Loon Mitsubishi + 3h59m31s
10. Duncan Vos Toyota + 4h01m54s