FIAMBALA  - Defending champion Cyril Despres extended his overall lead in the motorcycling category in the Dakar Rally after the 11th stage of the race on Wednesday.

However, while the 38-year-old Frenchman moved a step closer to a fifth Dakar title, his colleagues in the car category were once again frustrated by the elements as an overflowing river brought the majority of the drivers to a halt.

Despres' compatriot and defending drivers' champion Stephane Peterhansel - who leads this year's edition by more than 50 minutes with the race finishing on Sunday - was one of only seven drivers to succeed in crossing the river. Saturday's eighth stage had seen the car category also badly affected by torrential rain.

American KTM rider Kurt Caselli had taken the stage honours in the motorcycling section beating Portugal's Paulo Goncalves by 4min 45sec over the 452km stage from La Rioja, which having originally been planned to include a 190km timed special was reduced to 30km because of the inclement weather.

Despres, who waited till Monday to make his surge having started the week over 20 minutes in arrears, finished third, also on a KTM, 6min 24sec adrift of the winner. The Frenchman leads team-mate Ruben Faria of Portugal by 13min 16sec while in third place is another KTM rider, Chilean veteran Francisco Chaleco Lopez, 18min 8sec in arrears.