SALTA, Argentina: Carlos Sainz claimed victory on the seventh stage of the Dakar Rally on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) with Peugeot teammate Sebastien Loeb reclaiming the overall lead on a rain-lashed day, which saw the grueling event suffer another tragedy.
Spanish driver Sainz triumphed on the 817km run from Bolivia’s famed salt flats at Uyuni to Salta in Argentina, beating Loeb by 38 seconds with defending champion Nasser Al-Attiyah in a Mini finishing third, 3min 22sec back.
For the dominant Peugeot team, it was a sixth consecutive stage win on this year’s race, its 38th edition.
Nine-time world rally champion Loeb leads the overall standings with a 2min 22sec advantage over fellow Peugeot man and 11-time Dakar winner Stephane Peterhansel who was fourth Saturday, 3min 27sec off the stage pace.
Sainz is 4min 50sec off the overall lead in third spot.
“We’re in the lead and that’s what counts. I didn’t expect to be in the lead on the rest day,” said Loeb, with the race taking a break on Sunday.
“We’ll make the most of it. We’ll have to work hard the next few stages. The next three stages are packed with pitfalls, they’re tricky, but we’ll try and do our best. Our only strategy is to attack a lot and post solid times.”
However, the action was overshadowed by the death of a 63-year-old man who died when he was involved in a collision with a car driven by French competitor Lionel Baud.
“An accident occurred at the 82km mark of the day on Bolivian territory when competitor 409 Lionel Baud collided with a 63-year-old man who had become isolated on the track,” said a statement from the organizers.
This year’s Dakar had already got off to a dramatic start when a car driven by Chinese duo Guo Meiling and Min Liao smashed into a group of spectators watching the prologue in Buenos Aires.
It left 10 people injured of which three were seriously hurt.