Carlos Sainz took a narrow win on Stage 9 of the 2016 Dakar Rally, but it was enough to snatch the overall lead as his rivals struggled.

Massive heat meant the day’s loop around Belen had to be shortened, the organisors calling the result after the second check point. But there was still more than enough time for some challenges to come undone as the competitors faced sand dunes for the first time on the event.

Sebastien Loeb was the day’s biggest casualty. After crashing out of the lead he had held for most of the first week on Stage 8, Loeb got stuck in the sand and lost more than an hour, slumping to 13th in overall rankings.

Loeb’s Peugeot teammate Stephane Peterhansel lost out too, relinquishing the lead to Sainz after finishing the stage nine minutes in arrears.

Mikko Hirvonen set the first top three stage time of his Dakar debut, but the big surprise of the day was Dutch meat factory owner Erik van Loon, who finished second in his privateer Mini despite the aircon not working. He was just 10secs slower than Sainz.

In the overall standings, Sainz has a buffer of just seven minutes to Peterhansel, while reigning champion Nasser Al-Attiyah is 14 minutes adrift in third. Those are small margins in Dakar terms and, with three long stages remaining, anyone of them could yet win. Even Hirvonen, just over half an hour behind, isn’t completely out of contention.

Emiliano Spataro continues his runs as the best local and best non-Peugeot/Mini/Toyota driver, though he has dropped down the order to 16th. Harry Hunt continues to improve and a good run through the remaining stages could even see him break into the top ten.

Meanwhile, Aussie rider Toby Price still leads the bikes on his KTM after another stage win; Pablo Copetti won the day on his Yamaha quad but less than a minute separates Marcos and Alejandro Patronelli at the top of the table; and Gerard de Rooy’s lead in his Iveco truck is looking increasingly secure after his third stage win.

Finally, a hat-top to Pablo Bustamente who lies dead last of the entire field after spending more than 70 hours in the saddle of his Can-Am quad.

Dakar Rally Stage 9 top ten finishers

  1. Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz — Team Peugeot Total/Peugeot 2008 DKR — 2:35:31
  2. Erik van Loon/Wouter Rosegaar — Vanloon Racing/Mini ALL4 Racing — +0:10
  3. Mikko Hirvonen/Michel Perin — Axion X-Raid Team/Mini ALL4 Racing — +0:17
  4. Giniel de Villers/Dirk von Zitzewitz — Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa/Toyota Hilux — +0:38
  5. Nasser Al-Attiyah/Matthieu Baumel — Axion X-Raid Team/Mini ALL4 Racing — +2:04
  6. Cyril Despres/David Castera — Team Peugeot Total/Peugeot 2008 DKR — +6:46
  7. Stephane Peterhansel/Jean-Paul Cottret — Team Peugeot Total/Peugeot 2008 DKR — +9:12
  8. Yazeed Alrajhi/Timo Gottschalk — Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa/Toyota Hilux — +9:38
  9. Orlando Terranova/Bernardo Graue — Axion X-Raid Team/Mini ALL4 Racing — +10:53
  10. Mark Corbett/Juan Lohr — Century Property Developments Racing/Century CR5 — +15:31

Dakar Rally top ten runners after 9 stages

  1. Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz — Team Peugeot Total/Peugeot 2008 DKR — 28:39:24
  2. Stephane Peterhansel/Jean-Paul Cottret — Team Peugeot Total/Peugeot 2008 DKR — +7:03
  3. Nasser Al-Attiyah/Matthieu Baumel — Axion X-Raid Team/Mini ALL4 Racing — +14:38
  4. Mikko Hirvonen/Michel Perin — Axion X-Raid Team/Mini ALL4 Racing — +34:50
  5. Giniel de Villers/Dirk von Zitzewitz — Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa/Toyota Hilux — +53:18
  6. Yazeed Alrajhi/Timo Gottschalk — Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa/Toyota Hilux — +1:01:48
  7. Leeroy Poulter/Robert Howie — Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa/Toyota Hilux — +1:03:25
  8. Erik van Loon/Wouter Rosegaar — Vanloon Racing/Mini ALL4 Racing — +1:28:05
  9. Nani Roma/Alex Haro Bravo — Axion X-Raid Team/Mini ALL4 Racing — +1:42:55
  10. Cyril Despres/David Castera — Team Peugeot Total/Peugeot 2008 DKR — +1:51:30

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By Only Motors