TUCUMAN, AFP: Decorated Frenchman Sebastien Loeb scorched to victory in the second stage of the Dakar Rally on Tuesday to send the nine-time rally world champion clear in the overall standings.
Loeb completed the 275km timed section between Resistencia and San Miguel de Tucuman in northern Argentina in 2hr 06min 55sec for his fifth career stage victory in the gruelling race.
Last year he finished ninth overall.
Tuesday's performance on day two of the race was enough to lift him clear in the overall classification as he saw off Qatari opening-day winner Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah by 1min 23sec and fellow Peugeot man Carlos Sainz of Spain by 2min 18sec.
That gave Loeb a 28sec overall lead over Nasser and he leads Sainz by 1min 56sec.
Australia's KTM rider and defending champion Toby Price meanwhile took the overall race lead on the motorbikes as he landed the day's stage honours.
Price, 29, covered the 275km in 2hr 37min 32sec, ahead of Austrian Matthias Walkner and Spaniard Paulo Goncalves.
Both of the Aussie's pursuers are now more than two-and-a-half minutes adrift in the overall standings.
Price finished the opening day in 17th position.
This year's Dakar Rally takes competitors into high altitudes during 9,000 km of racing, culminating in a grandstand finish at Buenos Aires on January 14.