South African Vicus van Deventer won stage seven in the experimental class for quads of the Dakar Rally on Wednesday, while Giniel de Villiers maintained his sixth spot overall in the car section.

South African Vicus van Deventer won stage seven in the experimental class for quads of the Dakar Rally on Wednesday, while Giniel de Villiers maintained his sixth spot overall in the car section.

Van Deventer moved into second place, less than nine minutes behind the leader, Josef Machacek of the Czech Republic. He made up 20 minutes during the special 584 km stage.

"The Bombardier performs best of all in the marathon dunes and we are now in the toughest conditions. I had a nice day," said Van Deventer.

Wednesday’s route was part of a so-called marathon stage in the 2003 Dakar. With no service crews at the overnight stop at Ghat, the competitors will have to take care of their vehicles, maintaining them in a sufficiently fresh state in order to be able to reach Sabha without problems.

In the car section, French driver Stephane Peterhansel once again finished first, ahead of Mitsubishi team-mate Hiroshi Masuoka.

Ari Vatanen, in a Nissan, finished third, with De Villiers in fourth place. The South African maintained his sixth position overall.

“An extremely fast day, which needed quite a lot of driving. I am very pleased that we were able to achieve a good result, especially as the car did not suffer at all. No punctures; our biggest problem was the dust,” said De Villiers.

“We left in 10th place and after 15 km, we caught up with a buggy. We stayed behind it for quite a while, which bothered us. We made a small navigation error, but nothing serious and we weren’t the only ones. But I really enjoyed the day, despite the length.”

Peterhansel leads overall, followed by Masuoka, Kenjiro Shinozuka, Gregoire de Mevius, Vatanen and De Villiers.

In the motorbike section, Richard Sainct claimed the stage win, increasing his overall leadership to 1 min 47 sec over Fabricio Meoni, who also finished the stage in second place. Joan Roma was third and Cyril Despres fourth.

Alfie Cox, who started first, finished in fifth place and is also in fifth spot overall, 11 min 51 sec behind Sainct.

“Whoever started first finished fifth and whoever started fifth finished first. I don't know what the solution is. The riders are all so evenly matched, and the bikes are identical, you just have to wait for something to go wrong for the other guy. You can't have good days every day," said Cox.

"It was not an interesting day at all. Out of the 600 km, 50 km were in the most magnificent dunes and the rest of it was just dust like you cannot believe. It was impossible to pull any time on the next guy, once everybody caught each other up in the dust,” said Cox.

On Thursday, the competitors will face their third stage on Libyan soil, with a total of 727 km to cover, including a 497 km special stage of fabulous countryside, endless crossings and varied terrain, considered one of the most difficult stages in the history of the event. The Jebel Akakus mountain range will be particularly challenging, consisting of giant dunes and chiselled rocks. Once clear, the famous Murzuk Erg, known for its giant waves of sand, awaits.