Haradh - Stephane Peterhansel snatched a dramatic 11th stage of the Dakar Rally on Thursday when he pipped Nasser Al-Attiyah to the line by just 10 seconds, as Carlos Sainz maintained the overall lead heading into the final day.
Frenchman Peterhansel won his fourth stage of this year's race in his Mini ahead of Toyota's Al-Attiyah in Haradh, and finished more than eight minutes ahead of teammate Sainz.
"We fought hard, we pushed all day long and we gained some time, but not enough. Now, if Carlos can bring it home, it'll be great for the team," said Peterhansel.
Spanish veteran Sainz, 57, is 10 minutes and 23 seconds ahead of Peterhansel, who is third in the overall standings going into Friday's final 374-kilometre stage between Haradh and Qiddiyah, and the Spaniard is still on course for his third Dakar victory.
"Just one day to go. I'll keep an eye on the gaps and stay focused for tomorrow," said Sainz.
"We have a little work to do on the car but everything is working well."
However "Mr. Dakar" Peterhansel, who has won the rally 13 times (seven in a car, six on a bike), is just six seconds behind Qatari defending champion Al-Attiyah, who sits second.
Two-time Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso finished eighth on the day to sit 13th overall, four hours and 43 minutes behind Sainz.
Two-time world rally champion Sainz, whose son Carlos Sainz Jr drives for McLaren in Formula One, previously won the Dakar in 2010 and 2018.
On the bikes, Pablo Quintanilla won the 11th stage by just nine seconds ahead of Red Bull's Matthias Walkner, significantly closing the gap between him and overall leader Ricky Brabec, who finished the stage 11 minutes 48 seconds back in 10th.
"It could be a really great day for us so we have to keep our fingers crossed and keep a positive mindset," said Brabec.
Chilean Quintanilla is however still nearly 14 minutes behind Brabec going into the final stage.
"I'm really happy with this stage. It is always a nice feeling to win a stage. It was really difficult and I gave it my 100 percent from the beginning," said Quintanilla.
"I took back a lot of time from Ricky, but there is still a bit of difference between us. We still have a few kilometres to push tomorrow."
Results of the Dakar Rally after Thursday's 11th and penultimate stage between Shubaytah and Haradh:
1. Stephane Peterhansel/Paulo Fiuza (FRA/POR/Mini) 4hrs 14min 11sec, 2. Nasser Al-Attiyah/Matthieu Baumel (QAT/FRA/Toyota) at 10sec, 3. Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz (ESP/ESP/Mini) 8min 03sec, 4. Bernhard Ten Brinke/Tom Colsoul (NED/BEL/Toyota) 10:14, 5. Jakub Przygonski/Timo Gottschalk (POL/GER/Mini) 10:39, 6. Giniel De Villiers/Alex Haro Bravo (RSA/ESP/Toyota) 12:14. 7. Yazeed Al Rajhi/Konstantin Zhiltsov (KSA/RUS/Toyota) 15:14, 8. Fernando Alonso/Marc Coma (ESP/ESP/Toyota) 16:25, 9. Wei Han/Min Liao (CHN/CHN/2wd) 18:53, 10. Orlando Terranova/Bernardo Graue (ARG/Mini) 23:19
1. Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz (ESP/ESP/Mini) 41hrs 37min 51sec, 2. Nasser Al-Attiyah/Matthieu Baumel (QAT/FRA/Toyota) at 10min 17sec, 3. Stephane Peterhansel/Paulo Fiuza (FRA/POR/Mini) 10:23, 4. Yazeed Al Rajhi/Konstantin Zhiltsov (KSA/RUS/Toyota) 47:57, 5. Giniel De Villiers/Alex Haro Bravo (RSA/ESP/Toyota) 1hr 06:34
1. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI/Husqvarna) 4hrs 09min 22sec, 2. Matthias Walkner (AUT/KTM) at 9sec, 3. Luciano Benavides (ARG/Ktm) 2:48, 4. Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo (CHI/Honda) 2:53, 5. Toby Price (AUS/KTM) 5:49, 6. Jamie Mccanney (GBR/Yamaha) 6:22, 7. Franco Caimi (ARG/Yamaha) 7:05, 8. Andrew Short (USA/Husqvarna) 8:11, 9. Kevin Benavides (ARG/Honda) 8:48, 10. Ricky Brabec (USA/Honda) 11:48
1. Ricky Brabec (USA/Honda) 38hrs 33min 28sec, 2. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI/Husqvarna) at 13min 56sec, 3. Toby Price (AUS/KTM) 22:34, 4. Matthias Walkner (AUT/KTM) 29:53, 5. Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo (CHI/Honda) 32:36