Johannesburg - A navigation bungle on the ninth stage of the 2015 Dakar Rally dealt a serious blow to South African driver Giniel de Villiers' title hopes on Tuesday.
The Toyota SA driver finished the stage in fourth place, 22 minutes behind stage winner Nani Roma of Spain.
Race leader Nasser Al-Attiya of Qatar finished the day in the second fastest time to extend his advantage over De Villers, and co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz, to 24 minutes in the overall classification.
"It was not our day. We made a terrible, terrible navigation mistake," De Villiers told dakar.com after the stage.
"Obviously that's cost us the race, so we're sure now that we can only try to consolidate something on the podium, but the race is over for us.
"Sometimes it goes like this in the Dakar and there's nothing you can do about it."
While De Villiers, who remained in second place overall, believed his chances of winning his second Dakar were done and dusted, there was still a slim chance Al-Attiya could also slip up during the final stages.
"It's not impossible for Nasser to make a mistake, but with the lead he has now he can take it really easy," De Villiers said.
"The day was very hard but, for sure, he can take it very easy now. It was our mistake and we have to pay. It's not nice to always fight for second.
"It's very disappointing, but it's happened and there's nothing we can do about it now; it's finished."
Al-Attiya was relieved after a solid performance on what he said was a difficult stage while he believed they did enough to clinch the race.
"It was not easy, but I think we made a good job of it and I hope it will be enough to win the Dakar," the Mini driver said.
"I think we did a good job and to finish here in front of Giniel is the key."
Toyota's other South African team of Leeroy Poulter and co-driver Robert Howie finished the stage in 23rd place, half-an-hour behind the winner, dropping one place to 18th on the overall standings.
South Africa's Nissan Prodakar team of Johan van Staden and Mark Lawrenson remained 33rd in the general classification after finishing the stage in 48th place.
In the quad section, South African rookie Dakar rider Willem Saaijman finished the stage in 10th place for a ranking of 12th on the overall standings.
Meanwhile, South African rider Riaan van Niekerk was forced withdraw from the race in the biking category after his motorcycle broke down in a salt pan on Monday.
This came only a day after he produced his best performance of this year's Dakar, posting the eighth fastest time on Sunday.