Yamaha rider Frans Verhoeven won the 12th stage of the 2013 Dakar Rally on Thursday, from Fiambala in Argentina to the Chilean town of Copiapo.
The Dutch veteran took his fourth career stage, finishing the 319km timed section in 3 hours 49 minutes and 15 seconds, but defending champion Cyril Despres stayed on course for a fifth title.
Despres now leads the overall standings by 5min 39sec from Portuguese KTM team mate Ruben Faria, who was second on Thursday, 1min 38 behind Verhoeven. Chile's Francisco Lopez, also KTM-mounted, trails by 13:40 in third.
Despres came in 14th on Stage 12, more than nine minutes behind Verhoeven.
“I didn't want to open the track today so I let them go,” he said. “It was also important for me today to try and help Ruben. He's been helping me for the Dakar 2010, 2011, 2012 and also 2013, so today I decided to help him to try and stay in second place overall.
“I think he did well and I'm happy for us.”
Depres was still underplaying his chances of a fifth Dakar win.
“There are still two days left to race and, on the Dakar, you can be smiling one day and then unfortunate the next day - so I'm saving my smile for when we reach the end of the rally,” he said.
“For the moment, it's going fine.”
SOUTH AFRICAN CONTINGENT
Darryl Curtis, suffering considerable discomfort after his huge crash on Stage 11, put up a notable display of intestinal fortitude to battle through in 89th place, dropping eight positions to 29th in the overall standings.
His KTM team mate Riaan van Niekerk completed Stage 12 20th, losing one place in the overall standings; he will start Stage 13 in 14th overall.
Honda rider Brett Cummings put in another strong ride to finish the stage 35th - and made up another five place in the overall standings to move up to 50th.
Friday's 13th stage, the second last before the race finishes in Santiago on Saturday, will be the longest of the race, covering 735km with a 441km timed section. - AFP.
RESULTS - STAGE 12
1 Frans Verhoeven (Netherlands) - 3hr 49min 15 sec
2 Ruben Faria (Portugal) +1min 38sec
3 Joan Barreda Bort (Spain) Husqvarna +3min01
4 Alain Duclos (France) Sherco +3min17
5 Helder Rodrigues (Portugal) Honda +3min35
6 Jakub Przygonski (Poland) KTM +4mon07
7 Francisco Chaleco Lopez Contardo (Chile) KTM +4min47
8 Gerard Farres Guell (Spain) Honda +5min02
9 Javier Pizzolito (Argentina) Honda +5min22
10 Olivier Pain (France) Yamaha +5min32
OVERALL STANDINGS AFTER STAGE 12
1 Cyril Despres (France) KTM - 37hr 46min 59sec
2 Ruben Faria (Portugal) KTM +5min39
3 Francisco Chaleco Lopez Contardo (Chile) KTM +13min40
4 Ivan Jakes (Slovakia) KTM +20min16
5 Alessandro Botturi (Italy) Husqvarna +34min52
6 Juan Pedrero Garcia (Spain) KTM +41min14
7 Olivier Pain (France) Yamaha +1hr 03min29
8 Frans Verhoeven (Netherlands) Yamaha +1hr 05min02
9 Helder Rodrigues (Portugal) Honda +1hr 10min44
10 Javier Pizzolito (Argentina) Honda) +1hr 19min20.