After a rest day on Chile's Pacific Coast the 2010 Dakar reconvened for the eighth stage, a 472 km run south back for Antofagasta to Copiapo including a 90km stretch through sand dunes to close out the day.
But just because Saturday was a rest doesn't mean there was no news to report. Following accusations on Friday's seventh stage that KTM rider Marc Coma received a new rear tyre from an outsider on the stage rally officials to levy a six hour penalty on the Spaniard. Similarly the overall leader in the quad category, Marcos Patronelli, was given a three hour penalty for outside assistance he received in Iquique, the city at the rally's northernmost point that was the campsite on Thursday.
While both threatened to quit the event as a result, Marcos joined by his older brother Alejandro, all three were on the start line for today's stage, Coma having plummeted to 24th overall while Patronelli gave up the overall lead, though fell only 37 minutes behind his brother.
Predictably then Sunday saw Coma in full attack mode, among the top five riders throughout the stage while Cyril Despres, now furnished with a 1h20 overall lead, seemed to be taking things a little easier, the Frenchman happy to stay at arms' length to the pace of the stage leaders' battle.
For much of the stage that battle was between Aprilia rider Francisco Lopez Contardo and KTM's Pal Anders Ullevalseter, the Chilean taking the lead at checkpoint 3 at 245 never to sacrifice it as he took his second stage win of the event.
Coma eventually took second only 42 seconds slower, rising to 17th overall, though still seven hours behind Despres, who finished the stage fifth fastest behind Ullevalseter and David Fretigne.
The car race continues to be by far the closest, with just 14 minutes between the top two, though both Carlos Sainz and Nasser Al-Attiyah (and third place Mark Miller) are VW works drivers.
However, it was their rival this year, BMW, who came out with another stage win after a surprisingly topsy-turvy day on the stage. The X3 of Guerlain Chicherit led through the first checkpoint before he succumbed to a cocktail of problems including a rear puncture and electrical problems before 199km.
That saw control handed over to teammate Stephane Peterhansel as it was all change in the top five as Robby Gordon's Hummer bounced up to second fastest ahead of the remaining quarted of VW Touaregs.
Then it was all change again, Miller leaving a VW trio to the top of the times, as Peterhansel slipped to fifth, Gordon's Hummer suffered yet another setback, falling to sixteenth and the privateer Mitsubishi of Orlando Terranova moved into fourth.
The Argentine moved up to third by checkpoint three as De Villiers moved into the lead before Peterhansel recovered to overhaul the South African in the dying kilometres as he fell back to fourth behind Sainz and Miller. Terranova was sixth fastest, taking the honour of fastest non German car. Gordon finished tenth fastest, losing another 37 minutes to the leaders, but maintaining his overall tenth position and his dominance in the Open category of the class.
In the beleaguered quad race, where only 14 competitors started the day, it was another Patronelli day as Marcos led home Alejandro by a margin of only 56 seconds. In fact it was a double win for the younger sibling with news coming mid-stage that the official who made the allegations of outside assistance had dropped his complaint, the three hour penalty being immediately expunged, returning Marcos to his commanding lead.
Vladimir Chagin kept pace with Stephane Peterhansel as bother recorded their 53rd career stage win, the Russian bringing his Kamaz home for another victory ahead of teammate Firdaus Kabirov, extending his lead by another 12 minutes.
The Kamaz pair, and the attendant Ginaf and Liaz teams were joined by another name, Japanese marquee Hino with driver Teruhito Sugawara who finished the stage sixth fastest to move into fifth overall.
Stage Eight Results:
1. Francisco Lopez Contardo (Aprilia) 5h29:25
2. Marc Coma (KTM) +0h00:42
3. Pal Anders Ullevalseter (KTM) +0h01:22
4. David Fretigne (Yamaha) +0h03:19
5. Cyril Despres (KTM) +0h06:43
1. Stephane Peterhansel (BMW) 5h06:05
2. Carlos Sainz (VW) +0h00:45
3. Mark Miller (VW) +0h01:07
4. Giniel De Villiers (VW) +0h04:01
5. Nasser Al-Attiyah (VW) +0h04:17
1. Marcos Patronelli (Yamaha) 7h25:38
2. Alejandro Patronelli (Yamaha) +0h00:56
3. Christophe Declerck (Polaris) +0h02:35
4. Juan Manuel Gonzalez (Yamaha) +0h10:03
5. Rafal Sonik (Yamaha) +0h17:20
Overall Standings After Stage Eight:
1. Cyril Despres (KTM) 33h46:21
2. Pal Anders Ullevalseter (KTM) +1h20:31
3. Francisco Lopez Contardo (Aprilia) +1h24:21
4. Helder Rodrigues (Yamaha) +1h25:!5
5. Alain Duclos (KTM) +1h52:29
Results not available at time of writing
1. Carlos Sainz (VW) 31h28:13
2. Nasser Al-Attiyah (VW) +0h14:35
3. Mark Miller (VW) +0h22:28
4. Stephane Peterhansel (BMW) +2h02:25
5. Guerlain Chicherit (BMW) +2h24:13
1. Marcos Patronelli (Yamaha) 46h26:22
2. Alejandro Patronelli (Yamaha) +2h23:21
3. Juan Manuel Gonzalez (Yamaha) +3h27:29
4. Rafal Sonik (Yamaha) +5h54:06
5. Christophe Declerck (Polaris) +6h13:05
1. Vladimir Chagin (Kamaz) 30h06:14
2. Firdaus Kabirov (Kamaz) +1h03:46
3. Marcel Van Vliet (Ginaf) +5h47:00
4. Martin Macik (Liaz) +7h04:19
5. Johan Elfrink (Mercedes) +8h04:14