Copiapo: Qatari driver Nasser Al-Attiyah took the overall race lead after winning the eighth stage of the Dakar Rally, a 508km special on a 776km run through the Atacama desert from Antofagasta.
The Volkswagen driver, runner-up last year, finished 6min 36sec ahead of teammate and defending champion Carlos Sainz from whom he takes the overall race lead following a battle through the lunar landscape of one of the driest places on earth.
Al-Attiyah - who also won Sunday`s stage - now leads the Spaniard by 5min 14sec in the overall standings.
"I can control the race now," warned the Qatari driver.
"It was a difficult stage because I was opening all the way, but the dunes are my favourite terrain and I was really pushing to the limit.”
"In the last section of dunes we were pushing at a maximum because that was where we had to take the time from Sainz."
France`s Stephane Peterhansel however lost all chance of winning a tenth Dakar title with his BMW overheating as he also suffered the eighth puncture of this year`s race leaving him nearly an hour off the pace.
In the motorcycle section, overall race leader Marc Coma of Spain rode to victory in the 508km special on a 776km run, finishing 1min 55sec ahead of French KTM teammate and defending champion Cyril Despres, who is second overall 9min 19sec behind the Spaniard.
"It was a hard stage and very long with plenty of mileage and dunes," said Coma after his third stage victory in this year`s race put him closer to a third Dakar title.
"I was happy about the pace today. It was a good stage after a complicated one yesterday. But in the end, everything turned out fine."