The Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart crew of Stephane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret today extended their lead in the Dakar Rally on the 10th stage from Kiffa, in Mauritania, to Kayes, in Mali. The French crew now lead by over 40 minutes from team-mates Luc Alphand and Gilles Picard. Spaniard Joan 'Nani' Roma and Andorra-based co-driver Henri Magne remain fourth overall in the team's third Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero Evolution.

Today's 283 kilometer special stage may have been considerably shorter than those to which the crews have become accustomed, but with the rally leaving the Sahara behind for the twisty, rutted and vegetation-lined tracks of the Sahel, the challenge was as great as ever.

While Peterhansel had a steady run to finish third on the stage, just behind team-mate Roma, Alphand hit problems around the 228 kilometer mark after hitting a tree and damaging his front suspension. The crew repaired the car, losing just over half an hour, but are now safely in the bivouac still in second position.

Peterhansel, third quickest today, said: "It was not a straightforward stage at all; between the trees and the rocks it was very slow and twisty, with many tight turns. It was not easy to open the road, even though it was a short stage, although we had no problems with the car at all."

Roma, second fastest on today's stage, added: "I stopped to make sure that Luc and Gilles were okay. They had the spare parts needed for the repair so I carried on. The terrain has changed a lot. We have left the desert behind and now we face new challenges. I drove sensibly and made no mistakes. People said that the Dakar would be virtually over after Mauritania but that is just not true. There is a long way to go."

Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team Director Dominique Serieys said: "Uncertainty is the nature of this race; it is never over until you see Dakar. Luc has lost 30 minutes today, so maybe any thoughts of team orders have now been extinguished by Africa! Now I will stress to our drivers to keep their concentration and make no mistakes."

Service Tomorrow's stage from Kayes to Bamako is another long one with a 231 kilometer stage sandwiched between 50 and 424 kilometer liaisons. Vegetation will be even more plentiful than today on the route to the Malian capital on the River Niger, where traditionally many of the 1.5 million inhabitants line the streets to welcome the crews.

Men's Dakar dream in jeopardy after two troubled days

Chinese Mitsubishi Ralliart driver Guan Yuan Men and French co-driver Serge Henninot have amassed huge penalties after arriving very late at the Kiffa bivouac this morning. They suffered serious clutch problems yesterday and although they were permitted to start today's stage late, they have incurred an 18-hour penalty.

Ralliart team-mate Mana Pornsiriched has retired due to time penalties imposed as a result of clutch problems too. "Like us, Men had major problems with the clutch and it happened at the worst possible place, just after the start of the stage," said the Thai's co-driver Jean Brucy, speaking at the Kiffa bivouac this morning. "It is very disappointing for both drivers."