Carlos Sainz edged closer to his second Dakar Rally victory on the penultimate stage, but his Peugeot team is set to miss out on a one-two finish following a crash for Stephane Peterhansel.
Peterhansel was 45 minutes behind Sainz and 20 clear of Toyota's Nasser Al-Attiyah heading into Friday's San Juan – Cordoba stage, which featured two timed sections of 124km and 244km split by a liason of 382km.
The Frenchman hit a tree early in the day's running, which resulted in steering damage on his Peugeot 3008DKR Maxi and left the 13-time Dakar champion with a thumb sprain.
Assisted by teammate Cyril Despres, he lost almost an hour making it to the neutralised zone, where his car was finally attended to by an assistance crew.
The Frenchman is currently on track to end the day fourth in the general classification.
As he took profit from Peterhansel's misfortune, Al-Attiyah duly topped the day's timesheets, banking his fourth stage win of this year's Dakar.
Yet with Sainz cruising to the end of the stage, the Spaniard's 46-minute lead over Al-Attiyah should, barring disaster, prove unassailable in the Saturday finale.
Overdrive's Lucio Alvarez and Al-Attiyah's Toyota Gazoo teammate Giniel de Villiers were closest to the Qatari on the day, giving the Japanese marque its first 1-2-3 stage lockout in the 2018 marathon.
Another Toyota driver Bernhard ten Brinke was again among the frontrunners in the stage, and was in the lead upon arriving at the neutralised zone.
Yet the Dutchman's hopes of a maiden Dakar podium – boosted by the Peterhansel accident – were then dashed abruptly. He retired with a mechanical failure, his exit promoting de Villiers to third overall.
The 2018 Dakar will conclude on Saturday with a 120km loop near Cordoba.
Standings after Stage 12 (Car class, top 10):
|Pos.||Driver / Co-driver||Car||Time/Gap|
Giniel de Villiers
Dirk von Zitzewitz
Khalid Al QassimiXavier Panseri
Peter van Merksteijn