Former winner Carlos Sainz won the seventh car stage of the Dakar Rally on Sunday with his fellow Spaniard Joan Barreda claiming the motorcycle section.
After Saturday's rest day the gruelling rally resumed for the cars with a timed 533km circuit around Salta in Argentina, while the bikes and quads finished their day's racing across the Bolivian border in the nearby town of Uyuni.
Thousands of spectators, including the country's president Evo Morales, descended on the town built alongside the largest salt lake in the world to watch the Dakar's first ever visit to Bolivia.
ROMA STILL LEADS
Despite his performance on Sunday, Sainz was way off the pace in the overall standings - almost two hours back in sixth - with another Spaniard, Nani Roma, in a Mini, leading France's Stephane Peterhansel (Mini) and South African Giniel De Villiers in the leading works Toyota Hilux bakkie.
It was a frustrating stage for the 2009 champion, with the high altitude sapping power from the Hilux’s normally-aspirated, petrol V8 on a very fast route that was run at full throttle for much of the time.
De Villiers said: “The conditions suited our diesel rivals better than it did us; it was frustrating because we just didn’t have the power to contest the stage – and we got a puncture within the first 100 kilometres!”
Wild llamas also proved to be an unusual hazard and De Villiers was fortunate to narrowly miss one.
He put in a gritty ride under difficult circumstances to finish eighth, more than 16 minutes behind Sainz , but his closest rival, Mini driver Orlando Terranova, not only came in nearly two minutes behind the South African but also picked up a 15-minute penalty, dropping him two places to fourth in the overall standings and promoting De Villiers to third.
Sainz, at the wheel of an SMG buggy, notched up his 27th career Dakar stage win, coming in ahead of Qatar's Nasser Al-Attiyah (Mini) and Peterhansel, who also became acquainted with the local wildlife during the day's racing.
The former double World Rally Champion” said: “Finding our way around wasn't too difficult, but that didn't mean opening the course was easy, as we came across herds of llamas a couple of times and had to brake hard and then drive carefully while they got out of the way.
“We scared them away for the other drivers and it cost us some time, because when you go down to 50km/h, at this altitude it takes a while before you get back to 160!”
Overall leader Roma finished fourth, saying afterwards: “We didn't have a bad day, in spite of a puncture and having to drive in the dust behind Giniel for several kilometres before getting past him.
“We're comfortable in the lead and we'll take the race day by day but without risking everything.”
Despite the power disadvantage suffered by his normally-aspirated ex-Giniel de Villiers V8 Hilux, Toyota privateer Thomas Rundle posted his best stage result yet on Sunday and improved his overall position to 19th.
“We had a good rest on our day off on Saturday after a very tough week, and felt strong today,” Rubndkle said. “It was virtually foot flat through the whole of the racing section - we just didn’t have the power to go any faster!
“It was an encouraging start to the final week; there are some long stages ahead.”
It was another long, dusty, disappointing day for Dakar rookie Leeroy Poulter in the second Toyota Hilux. He came in 68th, more than three hours behind the leaders and dropped one place to 30th overall.
“We were doing well until we had a steering problem,” Poulter said. ”That left us stuck at the side of the road for almost three hours battling to fix it – we got it right just before the T4 support truck arrived!”
Barreda, on board a Honda, is lying second in the overall motorcycle standings, more than 38 minutes behind his compatriot Marc Coma (KTM), with another Spanish rider, Jordi Viladoms (KTM), third, more than an hour and a quarter behind the leader.
South African riders Riaan van Niekerk (KTM) and Brett Cummings (Honda) each enjoyed a good day at the office on Bolivia. Van Niekerk finished the 401km motorcycle Stage 7 in 11th, 12min 15 behind the leader, promoting himself one place in the overall standings to 13th, while Dakar rookie Cummings was 26th for the day – his best stage result yet – and hung on to 30th overall.
RESULTS – CARS: Stage 7
1 Carlos Sainz (Spain) SMG – 4hrs 43min28
2 Nasser Al-Attiyah (Qatar) Mini +4min45
3 Stephane Peterhansel (France) Mini +7min26
4 Nani Roma (Spain) Mini +8min56
5 Krysztof Holowczyc (Poland) Mini +10min51
6 Federico Villagra (Argentina) Mini +12min54
7 Vladimir Yasilyev (Russia) Mini +15min58
8 Giniel De Villiers (South Africa) +16min25
9 Orlando Terranova (Argentina) Mini +18min00
10 Bernhard ten Brinke (Netherlands) HRX +20min04
15 Thomas Rundle (South Africa) Toyota +33min01
18 Lucio Alvarez (Argentina) Ford +37min23
68 Leeroy Poulter (South Africa) Toyota +3hrs 13min48
RESULTS – CARS: Overall after Stage 7
1 Nani Roma (Spain) Mini - 27rs 03n58
2 Stephane Peterhansel (France) Mini +31min5
3 Giniel De Villiers (South Africa) Toyota +48min23
4 Orlando Terranova (Argentina) Minii +54min34
5 Nasser Al-Attiyah (Qatar) Mini +1hr 18min24
6 Carlos Sainz (Spain) SMG +1hr 50min42
7 Krysztof Holowczyc (Poland) Mini +2hrs 30min52
8 Federico Villagra (Argentina) Mini +2hrs 52min57
9 Christian Lavieille (France) Haval +3hrs 07min06
10 Martin Kaczmarski (Poland) Mini +4hrs 06min19
19 Thomas Rundle (South Africa) Toyota +6hrs 07min22
30 Leeroy Poulter (South Africa) Toyota +10hrs 10min18
32 Lucio Alvarez (Argentina) Ford +13hrs 15min55
RESULTS – MOTORCYCLES: Stage 7
1 Joan Barreda Bort (Spain) Honda - 3hrs 28min41
2 Marc Coma (Spain) KTM +4min03
3 Cyril Despres (France) Yamaha +5min35
4 Juan Pedrero Garcia (Spain) Sherco +6min57
5 Kuba Przygonski (Poland) KTM +8min56
6 Jeremias Israel Esquerre (Chile) Speedbrain +10min04
7 Helder Rodrigues (Portugal) Honda +10min57
8 Mário Patrão (Portugal) Suzuki +11min27
9 Olivier Pain (France) Yamaha +11min37
10 Jordi Viladoms (Spain) KTM +11min57
11 Riaan van Niekerk (South Africa) KTM +12min15
26 Brett Cummings (South Africa) Honda +26min07
RESULTS – MOTORCYCLES: Overall after Stage 7
1 Marc Coma (Spain) KTM - 26hrs 40min44
2 Joan Barreda Bort (Spain) Honda +38min14
3 Jordi Viladoms (Spain) KTM +1hr 16min03
4 Alain Duclos (France) Sherco +1hr 16min35
5 Jeremias Israel Esquerre (Chile) Speedbrain +1h 39min29
6 Olivier Pain (France) Yamaha +1hr 50min42
7 Kuba Przygonski (Poland) KTM +1hr 54min52
8 Helder Rodrigues (Portugal) Honda) +2hr 08min18
9 David Casteu (France) KTM +2hr 23min50
10 Cyril Despres (France) Yamaha +2hr 26min13
13 Riaan van Niekerk (South Africa) KTM +3hrs 31min19
30 Brett Cummings (South Africa) Honda +7hrs 07min49