The sixth stage of the Dakar Rally was cancelled yesterday due to extreme weather conditions in Bolivia, with competitors heading for a rest day in La Paz before resuming the race tomorrow.
Scouts sent out by organisers to check the 786km stage from the mining town of Oruro to La Paz reported steadily deteriorating terrain.
Friday’s fifth stage had already been cut short due to bad weather, with Britain’s Sam Sunderland leading the motorcycle standings on a KTM and French Peugeot driver Stephane Peterhansel on top in the car category.
Meanwhile, former champion Carlos Sainz of Spain has been forced out of the Dakar Rally after his Peugeot was badly damaged in an accident, his team said Friday.
Sainz, the 2010 Dakar winner, is the second top auto competitor to quit the race in South America after former two-time winner Nasser Al Attiyah of Qatar.
The Spaniard lost control of his vehicle, which rolled over just five kilometres from the finish of Thursday’s gruelling fourth stage between San Salvador de Jujuy in Argentine and Tupiza in Bolivia.
“It appears that the necessary work cannot be carried out within the time allowed,” Peugeot Sport said in a statement.
“I’m obviously very disappointed by this withdrawal,” said Sainz, also a two-time world rally champion in 1990 and 1992.
“I regret not being able to challenge.”
Sainz had provisionally been third in the standings when misfortune hit more than seven minutes behind French race leader and Peugeot teammate Cyril Despres.
The 54-year-old took to the road again after two hours stranded, but finished the special two hours and 19 minutes behind Despres, ending his hopes of winning the race for a second time.
The 521km fourth stage of the Dakar Rally – dubbed the most difficult by organisers since the race moved to South America – proved fatal for several key challengers.
Defending motorcycle champion Toby Price was forced out after breaking his left leg, joining two-time auto winner Al Attiyah on the sidelines.
Australian rider Price suffered his race-ending injury when he tumbled off his KTM motorbike after 371km as the 9 000km race climbed into the dizzying altitudes of the Andes.
The 29-year-old had to be airlifted off the course, which hit 3 000 metres above sea level, and taken to hospital.
Earlier in the day, Al Attiyah was also forced to pull out after his Toyota lost a wheel on Wednesday’s third stage, a setback that left him stranded for over an hour.
Friday’s fifth stage was from Tupiza to Oruro in Bolivia with Despres leading the auto race and Joan Barreda in charge of the motor event. – Reuters