Overall leader Stephane Peterhansel won yet another stage in the Dakar Rally and looks set to win the race, which ends in Sharm el-Sheikh on Sunday.

Overall leader Stephane Peterhansel won yet another stage in the Dakar Rally and looks set to win the race, which ends in Sharm el-Sheikh on Sunday.

Peterhansel finished ahead of Mitsubishi team-mate Hiroshi Masuoka in stage 12, a 341km special around Siwa.

Peterhansel has a 24min 18sec overall lead over Masuoka.

Frenchman Jean-Pierre Fontenay, also in a Mitsubishi, finished the stage in third place, Miki Biasion of Italy was fourth ahead of Gregoire de Mevius. South African Giniel de Villiers was the best-placed Nissan after finishing stage 12 in fifth place. He is in sixth spot overall.

“It was not an excellent special stage; it was quite dangerous, with long steep downhill sections, and sometimes there were errors in the road book,” said De Villiers.

“There were dangers that were not shown, and some dangers that were shown did not exist. We calmed down in order to prevent getting caught out unnecessarily. The car went very well, we did not have any punctures. It was important to take care of the car over this sort of terrain. Tomorrow’s special stage will be long, and could be decisive. It is vitally important to get through tomorrow’s stage without problems,” the South African said.

Italian KTM rider Giovanni Sala won the motorbike section although he is lying only 15th in the overall standings.

Fabrizio Meoni and overall leader Richard Sainct both fell off their bikes, but were not injured.

Sainct finished 11th and lost two minutes overall to second-placed Cyril Despres, who closed the overall gap to 10min 48sec. Meoni is third overall, but has half an hour to make up.

Meoni, Sainct and Depres indicated before the start on Tuesday that they did not want to win the stage because they did not want to set the track in the sand in Wednesday’s stage. The starting gap between Meoni (place 16) and Sainct (place 11) is marginal: Meoni starts just two and a half minutes after Sainct. Depres starts from seventh place.

"My strategy has worked out perfectly so far. I wait and see what the others are going to try out. And it's going to stay that way: I want to stay up front and if necessary I'm going to attack. After all, I'm in the best position. I'm up front and therefore I'm able to control the race. I believe the next stages are slower and more twisty. That will work out fine for my single-cylinder bike," said Sainct.

South African Hannes Grobler, driving a Renault Kerax in the truck section, crossed the finish line of the day’s special stage in 9hr 41min 47sec in 24th place. He is in 18th position overall.

“It is not easy to take part in such an event in a truck. We often arrive late, and it’s not much fun out on the trails after dark. I am above all a car driver, and this experience at the wheel of a truck is fascinating. I am quite amazed to see what you can achieve with a truck. The braking can be quite delicate, but the driving is extraordinary with such a machine,” Grobler said.

“I never forget that this is my first Dakar and that I need to learn. So far, we have had no problems with the Kerax, and I hope that will continue. Of course, I would have preferred to be at the wheel of a car for my first Dakar, especially when I see how well Giniel is doing in the classification. I know my level, and I am sure that I could have fought at the front, just like he is doing. Next year I would really like to line up for the Dakar in a competitive car, budget problems notwithstanding. I have been driving Nissan cars competitively for 25 years, and if I had the chance to part, I would not hesitate for a second,” he said.

On Wednesday, the rally will cross the so-called "Great Sand Sea", a large area of dunes. At some of the higher dunes the organisers have set up orientation marks to indicate where it is safe to cross.