Iquique - Cyril Despres regained the upper hand in his ding dong Dakar Rally battle with motorcycle rival Marc Coma here on Tuesday.
The French KTM rider and three-time champion responded to Coma's win on Monday before taking the 556km ninth stage from Antofogasta which finished with a dramatic descent down an 800m high dune.
Despres, who timed 5hr 04min 33sec with defending champion Coma coming in 3min 54sec behind, replaced the Spaniard at the top of the overall rankings.
With five days racing to go Despres holds a lead of 2min 28sec and the 46-year-old Frenchman said that despite having a terrible day on Monday he had refused to let it get him down and in fact it had encouraged him to go on the attack.
"After a difficult day yesterday when you start to doubt, I had to get back to winning ways," said Despres.
"We came into this looking at a battle for seconds or minutes. It's very competitive.
"Like any top level sportsman, if you don't like confrontation or squeezing the last ounces of strength out of yourself, then you're not ready for a fight. But, as for me, I'm up for it."
Coma too was revelling in the engrossing tussle.
"We're coming to the crunch part of the rally. Cyril is a major rival and we do battle over every single kilometre. But I think it's interesting, it's sport," said the Spaniard.
Earlier, defending car champion Nasser Al-Attiyah was forced out of the race when his temperamental Hummer suffered more mechanical problems.
The 31-year-old Qatari driver has been plagued by problems since the start in Mar Del Plata on New Year's Day.
He lined up for Tuesday's ninth stage in sixth position overall, eight minutes behind leader Stephane Peterhansel, having struggled to make up the loss of 10 minutes on the opening stage.
Al-Attiyah, who is hoping to compete in his third Olympic Games in shooting at London 2012, lost more precious time when he was forced to make three unscheduled stops on the 556km run between Antofagasta and Iquique.
Initial reports suggest his American-backed Hummer had suffered problems with its alternator.
He decided to call time on his title defence at the 174km mark of the timed special in a race in which, despite his mechanical gremlins, he still managed to post the fastest times in the second and seventh stages.
Among the catalogue of mechanical setbacks he has suffered have been a broken radiator and an errant spare wheel.
Dakar Rally results after Tuesday's 556km ninth stage from Antofagasta to Iquique :
1. Cyril Despres (FRA/KTM) 5hr 04min 33sec, 2. Marc Coma (ESP/KTM) at 3min 54sec, 3. Joan Barreda Bort (ESP/Husqvarna) 8:28, 4. Helder Rodrigues (POR/Yamaha) 11:44, 5. Paulo Goncalvez (POR/Yamaha) 15:12, 6. Pal Ullevalseter (NOR/KTM) 15:43, 7. Stefan Svitko (SVK/KTM) 16:19, 8. Jordi Viladoms (ESP/KTM) 17:42, 9. Frans Verhoeven (NED/Sherco) 18.46, 10. Gerard Farres Guell (ESP/KTM) 18:56.
1. Cyril Despres (FRA/KTM) 28hr 30min 17sec, 2. Marc Coma (ESP/KTM) at 2min 28sec, 3. Helder Rodrigues (POR/Yamaha) 59:19, 4. Paulo Goncalves (POR/Husqvarna) 1hr 25:57, 5. Jordi Viladoms (ESP/KTM) 1hr 28:43, 6. Gerard Farres Guell (ESP/KTM) 1hr 33:05, 7. Stefan Svitko (SVK/KTM) 1hr 33:33, 8. Pal Ullevalseter (NOR/KTM) 1hr 49:27, 9. Juan Pedrero Garcia (ESP/KTM) 1hr 52:13, 10. Alessandro Botturi (ITA/KTM) 2hr 12:18