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Sainz abandons race after crash

DAKAR Rally leader Carlos Sainz crashed out of the race and Volkswagen teammate Giniel De Villiers took over the lead on Thursday, two days from the finish.

Sainz missed a sharp turn and his car flipped into a four-meter ravine during the 12th stage between Fiambala and La Rioja.

Co-driver Michel Perin broke his shoulder and the pair was returned to Fiambala by helicopter.

Perin said a sign marking the turn read "dangerous" but should have read "extremely dangerous" about 80 kilometers into the 213-kilometer stage, shortened by 30 kilometers to avoid a recent archaeological discovery near Fiambala.

"The car behind us, Nani Roma's car, would have fallen in the same hole as we did if we had not been there already," he said.

Sainz, the two-time world rally champion from Madrid, had dominated the Dakar. He'd led in nine of the 12 days since the race started, including the past week. He'd won six stages -- the last four -- and enjoyed a more than 27-minute lead on teammate Mark Miller of the United States.

This was Sainz's third and best chance yet of winning the Dakar. In the last race in 2007, he was second to De Villiers past midway when electric problems dropped him hours behind. De Villiers' engine broke down on the same stage and the South African lost his chance.

This time, De Villiers was closer to the finish in Buenos Aires, although his lead was slim over Miller.

De Villiers powered through the final section of sand dunes in the rain in western Argentina for his third stage win. Miller came second, just over 16 minutes behind. Robby Gordon of the United States was 25:27 back in third in his Hummer.

"In places we would go around in circles for 15 minutes to find the right trail," De Villiers said. "It was very dangerous and the sand was really soft."

Overall, De Villiers was 2:35 ahead of Miller, and nearly 80 minutes in front of third-placed Gordon.


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