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Sainz stretches lead with stage win

Carlos Sainz, VW, Dakar Rally 2009Carlos Sainz has extended his Dakar Rally lead to nearly 11 minutes after dominating stage eight of the event.

The former World Rally champion was just nine seconds clear of his Volkswagen teammate Giniel de Villiers when the rally resumed after Saturday's rest day, but the South African lost ten minutes to Sainz on the run from Valparaiso to La Serena while struggling in other competitors' dust and having picked up a slow puncture.

Sainz said he had enjoyed the 294-kilometre stage, which was regarded as a relatively straightforward and easy section compared to the extremely punishing courses that will be used during the coming days.

"I think it's a nice track," he said. "Very slippery, sometimes very tricky also - you don't see a corner and then it's turning. We just have to keep going like today, with no problems, go, go, go."

De Villiers felt that most of his time loss had been caused by following slower cars.

"Unfortunately, I lost a bit of time to Carlos today because soon after the special stage started I caught Guerlain Chicherit in the BMW and Robby Gordon in the Hummer," he said.

"For some 100 kilometres, I wasn't able to pass them - the track was too narrow and, unfortunately, the activation of the sentinel produced no response. In addition, we had a slow puncture, just before the end of the special."

VW continue to hold a one-two-three at the head of the field, with Mark Miller third, eight minutes behind de Villiers. Miller, who was third-fastest today behind Dieter Depping, said he felt the stage had been far better suited to Sainz than those with a background in rally raids.

"Lots of chance to lose your rally, and no chance to make any time really," said the American. "It's not the kind of stage that's built for me. It's perfect for Carlos and the guys that like the rally stuff.

"I stayed within four minutes of Carlos and I thought I would've lost six to eight, so I did better than I was expecting. So for me, it was a success. A few minutes is no big deal."

Joan Roma remains a distant fourth in the sole remaining factory Mitsubishi, with Robby Gordon hanging on to fifth in his Hummer despite losing a lot of time today when he became stuck on rocks while crossing a dried-up river bed.

Stage eight times:

Pos  Driver               Car         Time
 1.  Carlos Sainz         Volkswagen  3h47:19
 2.  Dieter Depping       Volkswagen  +  4:02
 3.  Mark Miller          Volkswagen  +  4:12
 4.  Joan Roma            Mitsubishi  +  4:15
 5.  Giniel de Villiers   Volkswagen  + 10:48
 6.  Guerlain Chicherit   BMW         + 11:32
 7.  Krzysztof Holowczyc  Nissan      + 17:33
 8.  Robby Gordon         Hummer      + 23:40
 9.  Ivar Erik Tollefsen  Nissan      + 26:11
10.  Tonnie van Deijne    Mitsubishi  + 27:31

Overall positions:

Pos  Driver               Car         Time
 1.  Carlos Sainz         Volkswagen  27h29:59
 2.  Giniel de Villiers   Volkswagen  +  10:57
 3.  Mark Miller          Volkswagen  +  18:05
 4.  Joan Roma            Mitsubishi  +  33:31
 5.  Robby Gordon         Hummer      +1h32:01
 6.  Krzysztof Holowczyc  Nissan      +2h57:05
 7.  Ivar Erik Tollefsen  Nissan      +3h25:32
 8.  Dieter Depping       Volkswagen  +4h51:45
 9.  Rene Kuipers         BMW         +5h33:43
10.  Tonnie van Deijne    Mitsubishi  +5h57:49

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