Loeb takes overall Dakar Rally lead as yet another tragedy strikes

Nine-time world rally champion Sebastien Loeb of France driving his Peugeot during the seventh stage in the Dakar Rally. He leads the overall standings over team-mate and 11-time Dakar winner Stephane Peterhansel.
Nine-time world rally champion Sebastien Loeb of France driving his Peugeot during the seventh stage in the Dakar Rally. He leads the overall standings over team-mate and 11-time Dakar winner Stephane Peterhansel.PHOTO: REUTERS

SALTA (Argentina) • Carlos Sainz claimed victory on the seventh stage of the Dakar Rally on Saturday with Peugeot team-mate Sebastien Loeb reclaiming the overall lead on a rain-lashed day which saw the gruelling event suffer another tragedy.

Spanish driver Sainz triumphed on the 817km run from Bolivia's famed salt flats at Uyuni to Salta in Argentina, beating Loeb by 38 seconds with defending champion Nasser Al-Attiyah in a Mini finishing third, 3min 22sec back.

For the dominant Peugeot team, it was a sixth consecutive stage win in this year's race, its 38th edition.

Nine-time world rally champion Loeb leads the overall standings with a 2:22 advantage over fellow Peugeot man and 11-time Dakar winner Stephane Peterhansel.

Peterhansel came in fourth on Saturday, 3:27 off the stage pace.

Sainz is 4:50 off the overall lead in third spot.

However, the action was overshadowed by the death of a 63-year-old man who died when a car driven by French competitor Lionel Baud crashed into him.

"An accident occurred at the 82km mark of the day on Bolivian territory when competitor 409 Lionel Baud collided with a 63-year-old man who had become isolated on the track," said a statement from the organisers.

It was the 64th death in the history of the annual endurance race since 1979, including 23 competitors.

It was also the sixth death since it was moved from Africa to South America in 2009 for security reasons.

This year's Dakar Rally had already got off to a dramatic and bad start when a car driven by Chinese duo Guo Meiling and Liao Min smashed into a group of spectators watching the prologue in Buenos Aires.

It left 12 injured, including three children and a pregnant woman.

Guo, a 47-year-old Beijing native, is the first Asian woman to compete in the Dakar rally.

The off-road race, one of the most formidable challenges in motor sports, started out as a gruelling endurance race from Paris to the Senegalese capital Dakar. It used to require competitors to cross the Sahara Desert.

Saturday's seventh stage had been held up because of violent thunderstorms which led to the motorcycle event being curtailed for the day.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 11, 2016, with the headline 'Loeb takes overall Dakar Rally lead as yet another tragedy strikes'. Print Edition | Subscribe