UYUNI, Bolivia: Former winner Carlos Sainz won the seventh car stage of the Dakar Rally yesterday with his fellow Spaniard Joan Barreda claiming the motorbike section.
After Saturday’s rest day the gruelling rally resumed for the cars with a timed 533 kilometre circuit around Salta in Argentina.
The bikes and quads finished their day’s racing across the Bolivian border in the nearby town of Uyuni.
Thousands of spectators, including the country’s President Evo Morales, descended on the town built alongside the largest salt lake in the world to watch the Dakar’s first ever visit to Bolivia.
Barreda, on board a Honda, is placed second in the overall motorbike standings, over 38 minutes behind his compatriot Marc Coma (KTM), with another Spanish rider, Jordi Viladoms (KTM), in third at over one hour and a quarter.
Despite his performance yesterday, Sainz is way off the pace in the auto standings - almost two hours back in sixth - which are led by another Spaniard, Nani Roma (driving a Mini), ahead of France’s Stephane Peterhansel (Mini) and South Africa’s Giniel De Villiers (Toyota).
Sainz, at the wheel of a SMG buggy, was notching up his 27th career Dakar stage win, coming in clear of Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah and Peterhansel, who became acquainted with the local wildlife during the day’s racing.
“Finding our way around wasn’t too difficult, but that didn’t mean opening the course was easy, as we came across herds of llamas a couple of times and had to brake hard and then drive carefully while they got out of the way.
“We scared them away for the other drivers and it cost us some time, because when you go down to 50 kmh, at this altitude it takes a while before you get back to 160!” said the former double world rally champion.
Fourth-placed and overall leader Roma reflected: “We didn’t have a bad day, in spite of a puncture and having to drive in the dust behind Giniel De Villiers for several kilometres before getting past him.”
He added: We’re comfortable in the lead and we’ll take the race day by day but without risking everything.”
Today’s eighth stage finishes in Calama in Chile, the third and final country visited in the 2014 Dakar. REUTERS