(CNN) -- Former world champion Carlos Sainz strengthened his grip on the Dakar rally with a decisive victory in Sunday's eighth stage.
Sainz found the sweeping terrain on the eighth leg to his liking as he closed on victory.
Spain's Sainz led a Volkswagen clean sweep of the top three places on the 294 kilometer leg from Valparaiso to La Serena in Chile.
Sainz had just over four minutes in hand over teammates Dieter Depping of Germany and Mark Miller of the United States.
He leads another Volkswagen driver, South African Giniel De Villiers by 10 minutes and 57 seconds in the overall standings and looks set for a debut victory in the legendary rally.
"As long as the rally isn't over, then nothing is certain," he told the event Web site www.dakar.com.
"Today was the first time we have driven on tracks. In fact, this stage was very much like a traditional rally stage. Up until now, those are the first real tracks that I've seen.
"But it was very nice, very slippery and sometimes quite tricky. I'm keeping my fingers crossed and I hope that we'll carry on being as successful as we have been today," added Sainz.
De Villiers finished fifth on the day, behind Nani Roma, who is maintaining the Mitsubishi challenge in fourth overall.
France's Cyril Despres, on a KTM, won the motorcycle section of the eighth stage with Marc Coma of Spain in second.
Coma, who rode conservatively, finished one minute and 49 seconds back but kept the overall lead by over an hour and a half.
Despres told the event Web site that his win had not come without an unusual scare.
"Around 15 kilometers from the finishing line, a donkey suddenly shot out from behind a bunch of cacti," he revealed.
"I think it was a lucky escape, for both him and me."