Loeb fastest on stage 8 to take back Dakar Rally lead.

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Sebastien Loeb - Credit: Flavien Duhamel/Red Bull Content Pool

Sébastien Loeb was fastest on stage 8 and reclaimed the lead of the Dakar Rally away from Peugeot team-mate Stephane Peterhansel.

Stage eight took the teams back into Argentina but heavy rainfall trimmed the timed section from 492km to just 72km.

Yet this was still enough for Loeb to emerge from the stage three minutes quicker than his team-mate, despite picking up a puncture.

Peterhansel’s charge was not helped by a brief stoppage but had no answer to the pace of his fellow Frenchman and is now 1 minute and 38 seconds behind.

The two Peugeot drivers were in a class of their own, their closest rivals of fellow Peugeot driver Cyril Despres and Toyota’s Nani Roma dropped back.

Despres, who overtook Roma in the stage to reclaim the French marque’s podium lockout in the standings is now 17 minutes behind Loeb, with Roma six minutes further behind in fourth.

Mikko Hirvonen continues to lead the Mini challenge, consolidating his fifth place in the standings by setting a time eight minutes slower than Loeb.

However a problem all competitors faced was the deteriorated race conditions caused by inclement weather.

A rockslide on the road section link from the finish of the timed section to the Salta bivouac had blocked both competitors and technical assistance vehicles from arriving at the venue.

An emergency bivouac was touted as one of the possible solutions, although it has now been reported that crews will simply take a different route to Salta.

The opportunity for teams to perform technical checks and fixes on Tuesday is regarded as particularly crucial, as competitors received no assistance at the Uyuni bivouac under marathon stage rules.

On the bikes, Joan Barreda was quickest but rally leader Sam Sunderland managed to establish an even bigger gap over his nearest rivals.

Britain’s Sam Sunderland increases his lead in the bike category to 20 minutes despite the dreadful conditions. Credit: Marcelo Maragni/Red Bull Content Pool

Barreda won the stage from KTM’s Matthias Walkner by 3 minutes 51 seconds and moved up to ninth in the standings, still more than an hour down on the rally leader.

Sunderland was third quickest, only three seconds slower than KTM team-mate Walkner and now has a commanding 20 minute lead over Husqvarna’s Pablo Quintanilla with Yamaha’s Adrian van Beveren occupying the final podium position.

In the Trucks, the stage lasted longer with 174km being run before being shortened.

Martin van den Brink secured his second fastest stage time of the rally but category lead changed hands as Dmitri Sotnikov retook the lead with the fourth fastest stage time.

Sotnikov and Kamaz team-mate Eduard Nikolaev were trailing last year’s winner Gerard de Rooy’s Iveco coming into the stage but both managed to jump the Dutchman to occupy the top two positions in the standings.

Dmitri Sotnikov charges to the front in the trucks category. Flavien Duhamel/ Red Bull Content Pool

Sotnikov leads his team-mate by 1 minutes 46 seconds with De Rooy just 34 seconds further back in third.

In the quads Ignacio Casale took the stage win setting a time 5 minutes and 39 seconds ahead of category leader Sergey Karyakin and as a result moved into third place.

Karyakin increased his lead over Frenchman Axel Dutrie to nearly seven minutes with Casale just three minutes further back.

In the UTV category Li Dongsheng attempted to make up ground on leader Leandro Torres, but the Chinese was only able to shave off 8 minutes from the Brazilian’s dominant lead.

Torres leads Li by 1 hour 35 minutes with fellow Chinese rider Mao Ruijin a further hour behind in third.

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Sports Car and GT writer. Perhaps being named after James Hunt and Murray Walker (first and middle names) might have something to do with how I have always been motorsport obsessed. After failing to get int racing, I might as well write about it.
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