Carlos Sainz won his first stage of this year's Dakar Rally to extend his overall lead in the car category over VW teammates Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mark Miller.
So far this year, the double World Rally champion has simply been consistent, having never finished outside the top four on any stage. But today, as the rally began the turn for home and returned to the sort of winding tracks that make up WRC stages, the Spaniard's quality came out.
Sainz only failed to lead at one timing point through the 238km all-gravel stage, when he trailed Miller by seven seconds at 148km.
The fastest half dozen drivers kept up a fast pace all day. The usual armada of VW and BMW machinery were joined by the Mitsubishi of Orlando Terranova within four minutes of each other at stage's end and another four minutes clear of seventh place Miguel Barbosa in another Mitsubishi.
Stephane Peterhansel's X-Raid BMW X3 was second fastest, ahead of Miller who lost another minute to the overall leader. Al-Attiyah was another place and 38 seconds back, a margin which saw his deficit creep back over ten minutes. However, the car race remains by far the closest of the event with four stages remaining
Marc Coma, still racing under appeal on his penalty for illegal outside assistance, took his third stage win of the event. He dominated the bike stage, again â€” like Sainz â€” only failing to lead at one of the day's five timing points, as he was fifth fastest to the first point after only 42km.
But Helder Rodrigues, who led at that point, dropped to second by 100km and Coma took control and pulled out a lead of nearly a minute by the next Iritrack point, then over two minutes by the end of the stage.
Overall bike leader Cyril Despres was sixth fastest, the first time the Frenchman has fallen out of the top five on any stage. However, he still managed to extend his lead over Pal Anders Ullevalseter by a minute as the Norwegian fell back towards what is becoming a close battle for the minor podium places.
Ullevalseter is now less than two minutes ahead of the 450cc Aprilia of Francisco Lopez Contardo, who in turn is under a minute clear of Helder Rodrigues.
In the quad class, there was a first stage win for Juan Manuel Gonzalez, or Pedrega as the Spaniard is known. He was over eight minutes ahead of Marcos Patronelli the runaway overall leader, with Sebastian Halpern and Alejandro Patronelli.
In another fight for the minor places, Pole Rafal Sonik passed Christophe Declerck for fourth overall after finishing the stage sixth fastest, fourteen minutes ahead of the Polaris rider.
There was almost an upset in the trucks.
Vladimir Chagin was unchallenged at the top of the stage times, his Kamaz taking him to 56th career stage win, now one ahead of Peterhansel for the overall record, but behind on the time sheets was an unusual sight.
Not a Kamaz!
Instead for much of the stage the Iveco of Joseph Adua sandwiched between Chagin and Firdaus Kabirov, who has spent much of the rally in second place. Adua, driving for the Dutch based De Rooy team hed himself around a minute behind Chagin unti the very end of the stage, where he was beaten by Kabirov into second pace by only 14 seconds.
Stage Nine Results
1. Marc Coma (KTM) 3h10:43
2. David Fretigne (Yamaha) +0h02:06
3. Helder Rodrigues (Yamaha) +0h02:36
4. Ruben Faria (KTM) +0h03:56
5. Francisco Lopez Contardo (Aprilia) +0h04:57
1. Carlos Sainz (VW) 3h01:05
2. Stephane Peterhansel (BMW) +0h00:28
3. Mark Miller (VW) +0h01:02
4. Nasser Al-Attiyah (VW) +0h01:40
5. Guerlain Chicherit (BMW) +0h02:32
1. Juan Manuel Gonzalez (Yamaha) 3h31:16
2. Marcos Patronelli (Yamaha) +0h08:27
3. Sebastian Halpern (Yamaha) +0h09:08
4. Alejandro Patronelli (Yamaha) +0h09:41
5. Bernando Graue (Can-Am) +0h18:19
1. Vladimir Chagin (Kamaz) 3h44:23
2. Firdaus Kabirov (Kamaz) +0h01:24
3. Joseph Adua (Iveco) +0h01:38
4. Wulfert Van Ginkel (Ginaf) +0h14:14
5. Marcel Van Vliet (Ginaf) +0h14:35
Overall standings after Stage Nine
1. Cyril Despres (KTM) 39h13:59
2. Pal Anders Ullevalseter (KTM) +1h22:49
3. Francisco Lopez Contardo (Aprilia) +1h24:07
4. Helder Rodrigues (Yamaha) +1h24:59
5. Alain Duclos (KTM) +1h57:35
1. Carlos Sainz (VW) 36h34:45
2. Nasser Al-Attiyah (VW) +0h10:06
3. Mark Miller (VW) +0h28:19
4. Stephane Peterhansel (BMW) +2h14:20
5. Guerlain Chicherit (BMW) +2h30:59
1. Marcos Patronelli (Yamaha) 49h03:22
2. Alejandro Patronelli (Yamaha) +2h24:21
3. Juan Manuel Gonzalez (Yamaha) +4h11:36
4. Rafal Sonik (Yamaha) +6h31:55
5. Christophe Declerck (Polaris) +6h37:32
1. Vladimir Chagin (Kamaz) 35h47:49
2. Firdaus Kabirov (Kamaz) +1h12:25
3. Marcel Van Vliet (Ginaf) +8h35:48
4. Martin Macik (Liaz) +10h22:49
5. Wulfert Van Ginkel (Ginaf) +12:42:52