LEADING THE PACK: Carlos Sainz has moved to the top of the overall standings of the 2016 Dakar Rally.Image: AP
Belen, Argentina - Carlos Sainz moved atop the overall standings of the Dakar Rally by winning Stage 9 as Sebastien Loeb fell further behind after struggling in sandy conditions.
The stage around Belen was cut short due to searing heat and the many difficulties encountered by competitors between Belen and Fiambala.
For the motorbikes the stage was halted after 179km of the day's planned 436km run with the riders continuing on in convoy to the finish line, apart from some 30 competitors who had already reached that point.
For cars the race was also shortened to the 179km mark, of the planned 396km, of which 285km were timed. Temperatures ranged from 37o - 40o degrees.
Spanish veteran Sainz, driving a Peugeot, held off the Minis of Erik van Loon and Mikko Hirvonen by 10 and 17sec respectively.
Stephane Peterhansel, who finished 9:12 behind Peugeot team mate Sainz, lost the command of the overall standings, the latter now leading by 7:03.
After rolling his Peugeot on Monday, Loeb struggled in the dunes, becoming stuck in the sand on several occasions.
The nine-time world rally champion from France eventually limped home in 18th spot, 1hr 13min behind Sainz.
After the arrival of just 10 motorbikes at the finish line, KTM rider Toby Price, the overall race leader, had clocked the fastest time of 3hr 55min 51sec.
But organisers could decide to recalculate the times at the 179km mark where Price also had the best time.
Tragedy hits Dakar
There was more drama for departing competitor Lionel Baud.
During Stage 7, Baud hit and killed a 63-year-old Bolivian shepherd, an accident that saw the tearful Frenchman withdraw from the gruelling event.
On Tuesday a convoy leading Baud's car back to Buenos Aires was hit by a goods lorry in an accident also involving four other vehicles, the Cadena 3 television station reported.
An Argentinian car driver was reported killed in the accident.
Wednesday's 10th stage is from Belen to La Rioja.