Japanese rally driver Hiroshi Masuoka has won the ninth stage of the Paris to Dakar Rally from Zouerat to Atar in Mauritania while defending motorcycle champion Fabrizio Meoni of Italy maintained his slender lead.

Masuoka in a Mitsubishi Pajero finished the 396-kilometer stage in three hours, 53 minutes, 39 seconds. Defending champion Jutta Kleinschmidt of Germany was second, five minutes, five seconds back. Jean-Pierre Fontenay in a Mitsubishi was third.

Masuoka leads the overall standings, 11 minutes, 46 seconds ahead of countryman Kenjiro Shinozuka. Kleinschmidt, the first woman to win the grueling event, is third overall.

Meanwhile in the motorcycle division, dominated by KTM's, Kari Tianen of Finland won the stage in four hours, 14 minutes, 54 seconds. Jordi Arcarons of Spain was second more than three minutes back with Isidre Esteve Pujol of Spain third.

Reigning champion Fabrizio Meoni of Italy finished eighth, nearly 10 minutes behind the winner. However, Meoni retained his overall lead, one minute, 53 seconds ahead of Chilean rider Carlo de Gavardo.

Sunday is a rest day for competitors. The rally resumes Monday with a 404-kilometer ride that starts and ends in Atar. The 9,036 kilometer rally ends in Dakar, Senegal January 13.