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2010-01-11 07:25

Peter Burroughes

Frenchmen Stephane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret (BMW X3) caught and passed South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers and German Dirk von Zitzewitz (Volkswagen Race Touareg) in the closing kilometres to win stage eight of the Dakar Rally between Antofagasta and Copiapo in Chile on Sunday. 

De Villiers led right up to the 396-km mark of the 472-km stage before two punctures in the last six kilometres dropped him back to fourth on the day, 4m 01s behind Peterhansel.

The South African, whose hopes of a second successive Dakar victory were dashed when he lost over two hours on stage three on Monday with electrical problems, is now up to ninth overall (from 22nd on Monday),

Spain’s Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz continue to lead the race overall after finishing second on Sunday, 45s behind the BMW driver.

VW team-mates Nasser Al-Attiyah and Timo Gottschalk are still second overall after finishing fifth on the stage, but have now dropped back to 14m 35s behind the Spanish pairing. 

American Mark Miller and South Africa’s Ralph Pitchford kept it a VW 1-2-3 at the front of the field by bringing their diesel-engined 300 bhp Touareg in third, 1m 07s behind Peterhansel.  

The Frenchman, winner of three Dakars in a car and six on bikes, moved up a place to fourth overall at the expense of team-mates Guerlain Chicherit of France and Swede Tina Thorner (BMW X3), but is a distant 1h 35m 57s behind Miller.

Former Polish rally champion Krzysztof Holowczyc and Belgian Jean-Marc, fifth overall in last year’s Dakar in a South African-built Nissan Navara, maintained their good form to finish ninth today and remain an impressive sixth overall behind the three Volkswagens and two BMWs.

Stage eight followed a rest day at Antofagasta on the Pacific coastline of Chile, which provided some of the competitors with welcome relief from the gruelling battle with the elements. Others straggled in to the bivouac throughout the day, with 32 cars still out on the stage at midnight on Friday. 

Sunday’s stage, which marked the start of the second half of the 9 000-km race, was the penultimate one in the Atacama desert and was described by Pitchford, the 2009 SA rally champion co-driver, as very hard with lots of rocks.  All four Volkswagens suffered two punctures each.

Chilean Francisco Lopez Contardo (Aprilia) was the victor in the bike category, completing the second longest stage of the rally in 5h 28m 25s. Second was Spain’s Marc Coma (KTM), 42s back with Norwegian rider Pal-Anders Ullevalseter (KTM) 1m 22s in arrears in third.

Overall leader Cyril Despres of France (KTM) was fifth, 6m 43s behind Contardo. With Coma hit with a six-hour penalty for illegal assistance on stage seven on Saturday, Ullevalseter is now second overall, 1h 20m 31s behind  Cyril Despres (KTM).

Contardo is third ahead of Portugal’s Helder Rodrigues (Yamaha). The unfortunate Coma, winner of the 2009 Dakar, has dropped to 24th overall.

Overall (cars):
1 Carlos Sainz (Spain) VW Race Touareg, 31h 28m 13s
2 Nasser Al-Attiyah (Qatar) VW Race Touareg, +14m 35s
3 Mark Miller (America) VW Race Touareg, +22m 28s
4 Stephane Peterhansel (France) BMW X3, +2h 02m 25s
5 Guerlain Chicherit (France) BMW X3, +2h 24m 13s

Overall (bikes):
1 Cyril Despres (France) KTM, 33h 46m 21s
2 Pal-Anders Ullevalseter (Norway) KTM, +1h 20m 31s
3 Lopez Contardo (Chile) Aprilia, 1h 24m 21s
4 Helder Rodrigues (Portugal) Yamaha, +1h 25m 15s
5 Alain Duclos (France) KTM, 1h 52m 29s

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