Published: Sunday January 13, 2013 MYT 9:32:00 AM
Deluge swamps Dakar title hopefuls
TUCUMAN, Argentina: Torrential rain brought chaos to the Dakar Rally on Saturday after rivers overflowed and tracks were blocked leaving a host of drivers struggling to complete the eighth stage between Salta and Tucuman.
Only a handful of cars made it to the finish before violent storms returned to lash the race on a stage which had already been curtailed because of earlier rains.
"The stewards are currently meeting to decide on the next step," David Castera, the race director, told AFP.
The race had been stopped at the 88km mark when a riverbed on the course swelled with water.
At that time, 2011 champion Nasser al-Attiyah, who started the day in second place in the overall standings, was 13sec ahead of America's Robby Gordon with overall leader Stephane Peterhansel, the defending champion, three minutes behind.
But as the weather worsened, al-Attiyah got stuck and watched several of his rivals disappear into the distance.
Guerlain Chicherit reached the finish in the fastest time with Peterhansel over 12 minutes behind while al-Attiyah was left sweating on his fate as the stewards conferred.
David Casteu took the overall lead in the rain-hit motorcycling section after longtime leader Olivier Pain endured a miserable eighth stage.
Joan Barreda Bort claimed the 183km timed run in 2hr 7min 26sec, ahead of America's Johnny Campbell, who was 7min 4sec behind, with Slovakia's Ivan Jakes in third, 7min 57sec off the pace.
Torrential rain led to the early part of the planned stage, which had been set for 492km, being cancelled.
Casteu, on a Yamaha, has a 9min 26sec overall lead over defending champion Cyril Despres and an 11min 16sec advantage over Portugal's Ruben Faria.
Pain finished more than 30 minutes off the pace and is now fifth overall, 16min 10sec behind Casteu in the race for the title.
Pain was one of a batch of riders who got lost at the 122km stage.
"A huge navigational success," said Casteu. "I'm over the moon because it's difficult to ride at the front while attacking and keeping your bearings, navigating.
"I was able to keep my cool while everyone else was spinning around, but I stayed focused and was the first across the line." - AFP