2009 Dakar Rally, Argentina-Chile
Stage 9: La Serena to Copiapo
One of the longest specials of this year's Dakar Rally gave competitors a healthy dose of dunes as they tackled the challenging Atacama Desert. American Mark Miller led most of the race in his Volkswagen, but encountered trouble late when he collided with a boulder and damaged his steering. That handed the stage win to Miller's teammate Carlos Sainz, who crossed the line 1 minute 47 seconds ahead of Miller. NASCAR star Robby Gordon piloted his Hummer to another third-place result, only 2:16 behind Sainz.
"This special was very hard, very, very hard," Sainz told dakar.com. "There were a lot of stones and difficult navigation. It was really complicated. Just finishing is already a triumph. Just finishing without problems is a triumph."
The car class has quickly become a show for the Volkswagen team as Sainz continues to maintain the overall lead, followed by Miller in second (19:52 back) and South African Giniel de Villiers now in third (22:58 back). The only two other drivers within reasonable striking distance of the VW squad are Mitsubishi driver Nani Roma of Spain in fourth (58:12 back) and Gordon, who is fifth but more than 1 hour, 30 minutes behind.
In motorbikes, American Jonah Street was forced to withdraw Monday after injuring his wrist. Street, who won the event's fifth stage, had climbed as high as second overall before falling to fourth after Sunday's Stage 8.
Dutchman Frans Verhoeven collected his second 2009 stage win despite starting from the 33rd position on Monday. Spain's Marc Coma, who finished fourth, still has a comfortable lead (1 hour, 4 minutes, 38 seconds) over Frenchman David Fretigne, who finished second Monday, only 3:09 back. With his fifth-place result, France's Cyril Despres didn't gain any ground on Coma.
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-- Michele Vincze