Defending champion Stephane Peterhansel led a Peugeot 1-2-3 in the third stage of the Dakar Rally on Wednesday. Qatar's Nasser Al-Attiyah hit trouble as Toyota suffered a disastrous day in Argentina.
Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel is seeking a 13th career triumph in the gruelling 9,000km endurance event, and he took a step towards that goal by finishing the San Miguel de Tucuman to San Salvador de Jujuy stage in Argentina in 4 hours 18 minutes 17 seconds.
Carlos Sainz, the 2010 champion, was second, coming home 1 min 54 sec behind the 51-year-old Frenchman Peterhansel. Third was nine-time world rally champion Loeb, who was 3 minutes 8 seconds off the lead.
Loeb stays in the overall lead with a paper-thin 0.42 seconds advantage over Sainz and a 4.18 seconds gap on Peterhansel.
Wednesday's stage was split into two sections with the second part over a 124km timed run seeing the competitors race at altitude for the first time in the 2017 event.
However, it was a test too far for Toyota, who are seen as Peugeot's major rivals for the title.
Al Attiyah of Qatar, the 2011 and 2015 champion who was just 28 seconds behind Loeb overnight, headed the pack for much of the stage and looked set to take the overall lead from Loeb. But he came to a halt for over an hour when he damaged a wheel on his vehicle.
Toyota teammates Giniel de Villiers, the 2005 winner, and 2004 champion Nani Roma also hit technical trouble on the exhausting climb.