Thierry Neuville, who had led the Safari Rally in Kenya in his Hyundai since Friday, was forced to retire on Sunday morning because of a broken right rear shock absorber.
The retirement came after SS14, the first of Sunday's special stages, which was won by Toyota's Sebastien Ogier.
Neuville, who held a 57-second lead overnight over Takamoto Katsuta, also in a Toyota, arrived at the end with a severely damaged right rear suspension, having lost one minute over 11 kilometres.
"It's heartbreaking to end the WE (weekend) like this," said Neuville on Twitter.
"We had to retire after our suspension broke in SS14 this morning. This is how it is but I feel sad for us & the team.
"I think we all did the job and everybody is working very hard. There's no one to blame and we will continue to push."
Neuville's retirement leaves the field open for the two Toyotas with Katsuta four seconds ahead of Ogier.
Hyundai still have Ott Tanak in the race. The Estonian is third but more than a minute behind the Toyotas.