Sunderland keeps control as Loeb takes Dakar lead

Things are really beginning to take shape in the fight for ultimate glory in South America.
Helder Rodrigues splashes through a puddle on the way to Salta, Argentina during the 2017 Dakar Rally
Helder Rodrigues causes a splash © Marcelo Maragni/Red Bull Content Pool
By Tim Sturtridge & Joseph Caron Dawe

Rain's been a bit of a theme at the 2017 Dakar Rally these past few days and, well, it was status quo on Stage 8, as the route was forced into a change.

The previous day's stage had also been altered significantly, and rising water levels in a river bed on the S8 course necessitated a modification on Tuesday.

What it meant was a neutralisation of the special stage at CP1 after 174km. Competitors then had to complete a 176km link section, before starting the second stint of the special.

It may have resulted in the overall length of the special being shortened by 73km, but that didn't mean Stage 8 was any less brutal for those taking part.

Sébastien Loeb drives through standing water on Stage 8 of the Dakar Rally
Sébastien Loeb battles the terrain © Flavien Duhamel/Red Bull Content Pool

Cars: Loeb lights up

A stage victory, his third of this Dakar Rally, was enough to put Sébastien Loeb at the top of the overall standings, as he led a Team Peugeot Total 1–2–3 into Salta.

The Frenchman finished more than three minutes ahead of his team-mate Stéphane Peterhansel to take the top position from his colleague and rival, with Cyril Despres completing the day's podium.

The sequence is mirrored in the general order too, with only 1m38s separating Loeb and Peterhansel as the competition heats up.

At the moment the fight seems to be between me and Stéphane, but I think the two next days will be very, very tough and anything can happen there, so we will see

Sébastien Loeb

Top 10 overall after Stage 8:

1. Sébastien Loeb (Team Peugeot Total) 20h10m5s
2. Stéphane Peterhansel (Team Peugeot Total) +1m38s
3. Cyril Despres (Team Peugeot Total) +17m17s
4. Nani Roma (Toyota) +23m36s
5. Mikko Hirvonen (Mini) +53m41s
6. Giniel de Villiers (Toyota) +1h21m44s
7. Orlando Terranova (Mini) +1h26m47s
8. Kuba Pryzgonski (Mini) +1h42m18s
9. Boris Garafulic (Mini) +2h42m57s
10. Romain Dumas (Peugeot) +3h9m17s

Bikes: Barreda bangs in a second stage win

Joan 'Bang Bang' Barreda scooped a second stage win of this year's race with a skilfully controlled ride on a tricky day for the two-wheelers.

Despite having seen his overall victory hopes severely dented in the opening week, the Spaniard's winning spirit continues to shine through as he led the way to Salta.

General leader Sam Sunderland was another rider who produced a cool and collected display, keeping himself within four minutes of Barreda for much of the stage and increasing his lead in the rankings in the process thanks to a third-placed finish. His Red Bull KTM Factory Racing team-mate Matthias Walkner placed second on the day.

I don't want to think about victory at all. We've got a long way to go and the state of the overall standings can change in one day. You can lose so much time. I think that's the Dakar.

Sam Sunderland

Top 10 overall after Stage 8:

1. Sam Sunderland (KTM) 22h1m8s
2. Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) +20m58s
3. Adrien van Beveren (Yamaha) +28m49s
4. Matthias Walkner (KTM) +34m14s
5. Gerard Farres (KTM) +34m24s
6. Xavier de Soultrait (Yamaha) +50m10s
7. Pierre-Alexandre Renet (Husqvarna) +1h8m9s
8. Paulo Gonçalves (Honda) +1h8m34s
9. Joan Barreda (Honda) +1h10m53s
10. Helder Rodrigues (Yamaha) +1h36m

Trucks: Sotnikov takes over at the top

Martin van den Brink won a curtailed stage for the trucks, whose special was ended at CP1, by just 17 seconds over Federico Villagra on a day that saw the overall standings shaken up.

Sotnikov and Eduard Nikolaev leapfrogged Gerard de Rooy and demoted the Dutchman to third, but just 2m20s separates the trio.

It was a harsh day for 2015 Dakar winner Ayrat Mardeev, who plummeted to 10th in the general classification as he lost almost two hours in the fight for the top prize.

Top 10 overall after Stage 8:

1. Dmitry Sotnikov (KAMAZ) 17h52m20s
2. Eduard Nikolaev (KAMAZ) +1m46s
3. Gerard de Rooy (IVECO) +2m20s
4. Federico Villagra (IVECO) +29m6s
5. Pascal de Baar (Renault) +45m34s
6. Peter Versluis ((MAN) +57m56s
7. Aleksandr Vasilevski (MAZ) +1h42m26s
8. Teruhito Sugawara (HINO) +1h43m27s
9. Martin Kolomy (TATRA) +2h2m23s
10. Ayrat Mardeev (KAMAZ) +2h10m29s


Quads: Casale wins, Karyakin stays top, Vitse out

There was bitter frustration for Simon Vitse, whose debut Dakar came to an abrupt and premature end on Stage 8.

Vista ran into trouble early on in the special, and despite his best efforts he couldn't get his Yamaha back up and running.

Ignacio Casale's win closed the gap on Sergey Karyakin, who remains clear at the top by almost seven minutes.

Top five overall after Stage 8:

1. Sergey Karyakin (Yamaha) 27h45m50s
2. Axel Dutrie (Yamaha) +6m57s
3. Ignacio Casale (Yamaha) +10m19s
4. Daniel Mazzucco (Can-Am) +2h1m13s
5. Pablo Copete (Yamaha), +2h5m13s

Anton Shibalov hits a massive puddle on Stage 8 of the Dakar Rally
Anton Shibalov is in there, somewhere! © Marcelo Maragni/Red Bull Content Pool

Just how cruel can the Dakar Rally be?

This cruel...

Heartbreak. This is how the #Dakar2017 ended for this competitor.

A video posted by Dakar (@dakarrally) on

Coming up tomorrow…

Stage 9: Salta to Chilecito
MOTORBIKES/QUADS/CARS/TRUCKS
Timed stage: 406km
Total distance: 977km
Race organisers have already dubbed this stage The Super Belén, and with a timed special stage of over 400km it looks likely to live up to its name. We'll see a dreaded mix of distance and technical challenges of navigation in an exclusively offroad environment. Competitors are handed a stark reminder that there's still a third of the rally to go on this stage.

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