ATAR (Mauritania): Japans's two-time defending champion Hiroshi Masuoka had to contend with a gun-toting Mauritanian soldier on Wednesday before winning the seventh stage of the Dakar Rally to stretch his overall lead in the race.
Masuoka completed the marathon 701km stage between Tan-Tan in Morocco and Atar in Mauritania in a time of 5'58:35, more than five minutes ahead of French driver Stephane Peterhansel and almost 21 minutes clear of two-time winner Jean-Louis Schlesser.
Just after the rally crossed into Mauritania, competitors were held up by Mauritanian soldiers who asked for money to allow them to pass through the country.
A soldier pointed a gun at me, said Masuoka.
He said 'stop and give me some money'. But I didn't give him anything and I took back my passport.
It's the first time it's happened to me and I hope it will be the last.
The rally's sporting director Patrick Zaniroli said: It's not a customs problem, it's a local power struggle that is tarnishing the image of Mauritania.
Masuoka now has an 11:42 advantage over his Mitsubishi teammate Peterhansel in the overall standings.
I think the race is now just between me and Stephane, Masuoka said.
Britain's Colin McRae of Nissan 41:29 behind the leader in third place. AFP