Atar, Jan 13: South Africa's Giniel De Villiers took the Dakar Rally overall lead after winning the seventh stage between Zouerat and Atar which was shortened because of a blinding sandstorm.
De Villiers, driving a Volkswagen, finished the curtailed 542km stage almost five minutes ahead of previous race leader Carlos Sainz of Spain.
The result puts him one minute and 39 seconds ahead of former world rally champion Sainz, also in a Volkswagen, in the overall standings. Sainz was third on Friday behind Stephane Peterhansel in a Mitsubishi.
Former winner Hiroshi Masuoka, of Japan in a Mitsubishi, was fourth on the stage with Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah, in a BMW, in fifth.
Frenchman Cyril Despres, riding a KTM, took top motorcycle honours ahead of Norwegian Pal Anders Ullevalster and David Casteu of France.
"Of course it was a great day, but my enthusiasm is a bit undermined," said Despres.
"I gained 10 minutes back but I might have gained 10 more if the special stage had been run in full. So its a pity.
"I dont really think it was an advantage to start later because with the strong wind all the tracks were completely blurred and therefore very hard to follow.
"Now I still believe in my chances, because today I could catch up a little in the rankings. I don't feel physically tired at all. I just need to shave because its getting itchy under the helmet."
Marc Coma, who was fifth on Friday, maintained the overall lead but Jordi Villadoms, who won the sixth stage on Thursday, fell and broke his arm, and is understood to be out of the race for this year.