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Sainz secures 8th stage, stretches overall lead

RACE leader Carlos Sainz of Spain tightened his grip on the Dakar Rally on Sunday by winning the eighth stage between the central Chilean port city of Valparaiso and La Serena.

Sainz covered the 294 kilometers in 3 hours 47 minutes, 19 seconds, leading home a clean sweep of the top three stage places for Volkswagen drivers.

Dieter Depping of Germany was second, 4 minutes, 2 seconds behind the Spaniard. Mark Miller of the United States was third at 4:12, followed by Spain's Nani Roma, driving a Mitsubishi, at 4:15, and Giniel De Villiers of South Africa, another Volkswagen driver, at 10:48.

Sainz is followed by De Villiers, Miller, Roma and American Nascar driver Robby Gordon in a Hummer in the overall standings of the race, which is being staged for the first time in South America.

Despite having a lead of more than 10 minutes, Sainz said: "As long as the rally isn't over, nothing is certain. I'm keeping my fingers crossed and I hope that we'll carry on being as successful as we have been.

"Today was the first time we have driven on tracks. In fact, this stage was very much like a traditional rally stage. Up until now, those are the first real tracks that I've seen. But it was very nice, very slippery and sometimes quite tricky."

In the motorbike competition, France's Cyril Despres won the 8th stage in 4:07:39, followed by Spain's Marc Coma, who finished 1 minute and 49 seconds behind, but held on to the overall lead.

Chile's Francisco Lopez placed third, 2:56 behind Despres. All three men rode KTM bikes.

Coma is followed in the standings by France's David Fretigne, in a Yamaha, and Despres. Fretigne was sixth on Sunday.

The race was to resume late yesterday with a stage from La Serena to Copiapo, taking competitors through a desert.


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