France’s Cyril Despres kept his composure to secure the fifth leg of the Silk Way Rally.
The Peugeot driver completed the 568 km trek from Astana to Balkhash in an impressive time of 5 hours, 57 minutes and 32 seconds, enough to beat nearest rival Yazeed Al Rahji.
This result sees Despres take the overall lead ahead of fellow countryman Sébastien Loeb, who is 14 minutes and 22 seconds adrift.
Al-Rajhi is currently sitting third, 16 seconds further back and remains well in contention going into Thursday’s special stage, a gruelling 411km run from Balkhash to Almaty.
Stéphane Peterhansel and his co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret endured a disappointing day. The French pair, who won their 6th Dakar Rally title earlier this year, suffered a spectacular crash but should be able to finish the race.
“We were going to fast,” explained the Frenchman. “It was hard for us to slow down. We crashed and our car flipped over”.
The T2 category was won by Akira Muira while Martin Van Den Brink reigned supreme in the trucks category. The Dutch driver overtook 30 cars and 8 trucks in his Renault, en route to an impressive win. Eduard Nikolaev came home second and his overall lead was cut to 11 minutes and 42 seconds.