French BMW driver Luc Alphand grabbed his first stage victory of the Dakar Rally and South African Giniel de Villiers came home in third place on Thursday, his best finish of the event.

French BMW driver Luc Alphand grabbed his first stage victory of the Dakar Rally and South African Giniel de Villiers came home in third place on Thursday, his best finish of the event.

Alphand made history by becoming the first person from another sport to win a stage of the Dakar Rally. He won the overall alpine skiing World Cup six years ago. Alphand also gave BMW its first win in the car category.

"(Ari) Vatanen had a puncture. Maybe it's destiny. To be in front makes me so happy. People told me a few days ago when I finished second that I could become the first sportsman from another discipline to win a special. So the goal was to win a special. Today is fantastic," said Alphand.

Overall leader in the cars section Stephane Peterhansel finished stage 14 between Dakhla and Luxor in sixth place. He increased his lead to 27 min 13 sec over second-placed Hiroshi Masuoka of Japan, who suffered a puncture and ended the day in seventh place. Jean-Pierre Fontenay is in third spot followed by Miki Biasion, while Carlos Sousa is in fifth place. De Villiers (pictured) remains in sixth place.

De Villiers is still looking for his first stage victory. “I am quite disappointed, as I know that we could have won today. We got a puncture after 30 km, and lost some time. We got going again at high speed, and near the end we took the wrong route, going too far to the left. We were very close to Luc. He went to the right, while we went to the left. It was not the right decision, and we lost a bit more time.

“The special stage was quite broken today, one of those stages that could destroy the car. I am continuing to gain experience, but I would really like to prove it by getting a stage win before the end,” he said.

In the motorcycle section, overall leader Richard Sainct finished the stage in first place, followed by Cyril Despres, who was eight seconds behind, and Marc Coma of Spain.

Fabrizio Meoni of Italy saw his challenge for overall honours end when his KTM bike was damaged in a fall. He managed to repair it, but in the process lost more than 22 minutes. Sainct has a lead of 11 min 20 sec over Despres and 39 min 21 sec over Meoni.

"It was completely flat and I wasn't fully focused at over 150km/h. And suddenly the handlebar went from side to side and the bike went crazy. I still can't explain why. Maybe it's just the way it had to be because I had no reason to attack at that moment. The race for victory is over,” said Meoni.

But Sainct said he was still being careful. "The race is not over yet. There still are three days. The best proof is that Meoni lost a lot of time today. It can happen to me tomorrow," he said.

There was another accident in the motorbike section, with France's Alain Duclos breaking a leg and hurting his back in a crash.

Stage 15 on Friday is 576 km long and includes a 477 km special stage, heading north towards Abu Rish. The rally ends in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on Sunday.