Argentinian veteran Orlando Terranova won the sixth stage of the Dakar Rally on Friday, driving his Prodrive car to a first stage victory since 2015.
"It was a difficult stage because there were the tracks of the bikes, but some went in the wrong direction, so we had to stay very focused," said Terranova, competing in the Dakar for the 14th time.
"In the end, we won the stage and that's a great feeling. The car is fantastic and we are going to carry on pushing because we know that there is still a long way to go and that we can put in some fine performances."
Sweden's Mattias Ekstrom became the third of the Audi Sport team to climb onto the stage podium this year after Stephane Peterhansel and Carlos Sainz when he finished second, 1min 06sec off Terranova.
Saudi driver Yazeed Al Rajhi came in third, at 1:49, a result that saw him take second place in the overall standings at the expense of France's nine-time world rally champion Sebastien Loeb.
Qatar's three-time champion Nasser al-Attiyah dominates the general classification, now sitting 50 minutes ahead of his two closest rivals.
The 51-year-old, a 2012 Olympic shooting medallist, last won the title in 2019 and has finished second in four of the last six years, saying he was "quite happy" with his day's racing and his co-pilot Mathieu Baumel's navigation.
"We tried to push from the beginning, but some drivers made some mistakes," the Qatari said.
"Mathieu navigated well and we drove all the stage without any problems. We are quite happy to have finished the first week of the Dakar with a good lead."
But Al-Attiyah added: "This is the Dakar and we will try to manage next week without any risks.
"For victory, it is difficult to say – the Dakar is the Dakar, but we need to be careful and we need to be strong all the way. We need to have a good pace without any relaxing because when you relax you make a mistake."
Britain's 2017 champion Sam Sunderland still leads the motorbike event after Australian Daniel Sanders won Friday's stage -- his third of this year's renewal.
The stage had to be shortened to 101km due to the route being impassable after heavy recent rain and it being churned up by the cars and trucks the previous day, according to the race organisers.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian had earlier said France was considering cancelling the Dakar after an explosion in Saudi Arabia that badly injured a French driver and prosecutors are investigating as a suspected terror attack.
French prosecutors said Tuesday that they had opened a terror probe over a December 30 blast targeting a car in Jeddah, which left 61-year-old driver Philippe Boutron needing surgery for serious leg injuries before he returned to France.
"We thought that maybe it's best to abandon this sporting event... the question remains open," Le Drian told BFM television, adding that "there was potentially a terror attack against The Dakar."
However, race director David Castera later poured cold water on the idea.
"There are no new elements that suggest we should cancel it," said Castera.