La Paz, Bolivia – Monday's seventh stage of the Dakar Rally will be cut by half as heavy rain continues to cause havoc in the Bolivian section of the prestigious off-road race.
The organisers said on Sunday the La Paz-Uyuni route would be cut to a 161km timed stage with more than 600km in liaison, after Saturday's Oruro-La Paz stage was cancelled and Friday's Tupiza-Oruro leg was shortened due to bad weather.
Defending champion Stephane Peterhansel of France was leading the overall standings at the break, 1m09s ahead of compatriot and Peugeot team-mate Sebastien Loeb. Their countryman Cyril Despres – also in a Peugeot – was third, 4m54s off the pace.
Nani Roma in the South African-built Overdrive Toyota Hilux was still in contention in fourth, 5m35s behind the leader, but South African Dakar hero Giniel de Villiers in the sole surviving 'works' Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Hilux was more than an hour down in ninth after battling fuel-pressure and navigation problems all week.
Britain's Sam Sunderland (KTM) was heading the overall standings in the motorcycle category, 12 minutes in front of Chilean Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna), with Adrien van Beveren (Yamaha) third, a further four minutes down.
Gerard Farres Guell (KTM), Matthias Walkner (KTM) and Viscount Xavier de Soultrait (Yamaha) were fourth, fifth and sixth respectively.
Capetonian David Thomas (Husqvarna) crashed out on Friday’s fifth stage and was airlifted to hospital, but Botswana’s Vince Crosbie (KTM) was holding a solid 42nd place at the break (despite three hours and 20 minutes’ worth of penalties!), and Joey Evans (KTM) - who was a paraplegic six years ago - soldiered on in 102nd.
Fellow South African Walter Terblanche, also on a KTM, had been forced to retire due to ongoing fuel quality problems.
Stage 7 will be run over 622km from La Paz to Uyuni, including the shortened racing section of only 161km - but it will still function as a so-called marathon stage, with no service crews allowed into the bivouac at Uyuni. The crews - and the motorcycle competitors - will have to do whatever servicing and repairs they can with the equipment they carry with them.
The 2017 edition of the world's toughest motorsport contest features 12 stages, covering more than 9000km in Paraguay, Bolivia and Argentina before ending in Buenos Aires on 14 January.
Xinhua, IOL Motoring