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Sainz remains Dakar leader

CARLOS Sainz won his fourth successive stage in the Dakar Rally on Tuesday, while fellow Spaniard Cristobal Guerrero was seriously hurt after falling off his motorbike in the Atacama Desert.

Guerrero, suffering from a head injury, was taken by helicopter to Regional Hospital at Copiapo, where the 10th stage started and finished.

Hospital director Dr. Anita Quiroga said Guerrero was in a serious but stable condition after doctors drilled a hole to reduce swelling around his brain. "The next 24 hours will be crucial to determine his prospects," she said.

The stage was set to be the longest of the rally, but 200 kilometers in the middle were lopped off as the terrain was hard because of a lack of sand in the world's driest desert. Then the 476-kilometer stage started nearly three hours late because of fog.

Argentina's Orlando Terranova led the cars through the first two checkpoints but rolled out of the race. He and his co-pilot were not injured.

Sainz, the former world rally champion, and Robby Gordon, the NASCAR star, then dueled for the lead with Sainz winning the stage by 21 seconds. Mark Miller of the United States, Sainz's Volkswagen teammate, punctured and was 7 minutes, 39 seconds behind in third.

With his sixth stage win of the rally, Sainz improved his overall lead to 27:31 over Miller. Giniel De Villiers of South Africa, in another Volkswagen, was third, 41:13 back, after being stuck for 20 minutes in a hole.

Defending motorbike champion Cyril Despres led overall leader Mark Coma through the first four checkpoints, increasing the gap each time to more than two minutes, but made a navigational error and took 23 kilometers to get back on course. By then, the Frenchman was lying fifth. Coma made the same mistake.

Jordi Viladoms of Spain won the stage, just over a minute ahead of Alain Duclos of France. Pals Ullevalseter of Norway was given third after he finished 15th. Ullevalseter stopped to help fellow biker Francisco Lopez of Chile, who fell and fainted and was taken to hospital where he was reported to be fine. The time Ullevalseter spent helping Lopez was deducted, and he was bumped up to third.


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