1/11/2017 9:08:48 AM

Loeb takes overall lead, ninth stage cancelled

Loeb takes overall lead, ninth stage cancelled


SALTA, AFP: French driver Sebastien Loeb put in a storming performance to not only win stage eight of the Dakar rally but to also overhaul the overnight leader Stephane Peterhansel on Tuesday.

Loeb completed the shortened 417km split route in 4hrs 11min 02sec to arrive at Salta in Argentina 3min 35sec faster than his compatriot and Peugeot team-mate Peterhansel.

The result leaves Loeb 1min 38sec ahead of the 2016 champion who had a far slower start before reducing the deficit the late on.

"On the dirt sections he's faster than me but I'm beating him on the road sections," Loeb said after the stage.

"It's really tight, and it's going to be really tight all the way."

Earlier, Spain's Joan Barreda won his second 2017 stage in the moto category, as more wet weather played havoc with the gruelling race.

The Honda rider thundered across the eighth stage from Uyuni in Bolivia in 4hr 28min 21sec, ahead of the KTM duo of Matthias Walkner of Austria (3min 51sec behind) and Britain's Sam Sunderland, who was three seconds behind his team-mate to retain the overall lead by 20 minutes.

Barreda was also victorious in last Wednesday's third stage of a scheduled total of 12, but lost the overall lead of the motorcycle category after picking up an hour penalty for illegal refuelling in a subsequent stage.

Tuesday's special took two hours longer than expected because of heavy rain that lashed the course and the race has been hampered in recent days by the weather.

The rain forced race officials to change the route of stage eight because of rising water levels in a river bed.

Meanwhile, a massive mudslide in northwestern Argentina that killed two people and forced more than 1,000 to evacuate has led Dakar Rally organizers to scrap Wednesday's ninth stage.

The stage was to have run from Salta to Chilecito in Argentina's Jujuy province in the Andes, about 4,000 meters (13,000 feet) above sea level.

But the mudslide near the village of Volcan left the rally portion cancelled.

The mudslide killed a man and woman caught by surprise early Tuesday and left at least 100 families without homes. Many more locals had to leave their housing, which was rendered unlivable for now.

The rally's Salta to Chilecito stretch is the hardest of the run, with 98 percent of it off-road.

An alternative route and timing were being worked out, organizers said.

"Tomorrow (Wednesday) will be dedicated to regrouping all the race's resources in Chilecito so that the event can continue by starting the 10th stage, Chilecito-San Juan" on Thursday, organizers said in a statement. 

It is the second stage to be wiped out in five days after Saturday's sixth stage was also forced to be abandoned.

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