Spanish biker Marc Coma (KTM) signed a third victory at the fourth stage finishing at Neuquen. In the auto category, Carlos Sainz (Volkswagen) finished just six seconds behind Qatari Nasser Al-Attiyah (BMW).
|Mountains in Copahue near Neuquén, ArgentinePhoto : Patricia Sgrignuoli|
AFP - Spain's domination of the first half of the Dakar Rally continued apace on Tuesday as both former world rally champion Carlos Sainz and Marc Coma won the fourth stage of the car and motorbike disciplines respectively.
Their victories helped them extend the overall lead in both categories.
Sainz won his second stage of this edition in beating closest rival Qatar's Nasser Al-Attiyah, winner of the two other stages, by six seconds to extend his lead over him to 3minutes 46seconds.
France's 2006 champion Luc Alphand, who lost a lot of time on Monday, was third in the stage over two minutes behind.
Coma had earlier strengthened his grip on the motorcycling section after winning the 459km special from Jacobacci.
Coma added to his opening and third stage wins in seeing off Frenchman Cyril Despres - who has virtually given up all hope of winning a third Dakar after losing over an hour in the first three stages - by 1min 17sec and American Jonah Street by 1min 21sec.
Street's showing was enough to take him second overall over 40 minutes off the pace.
David Fretigne of France, fourth on the day, stands third overall.
Coma admitted that the stage had taken a lot out of him after recording his third stage victory of the race.
"This (the stage) was more physically challenging because I started to feel the efforts of the first few days," said Coma.
"Today (Tuesday), was shorter but really harder than the previous stages."
Earlier, two British competitors in the cars section were placed in an artificial coma in the central town of Santa Rosa after an accident during Saturday's first stage, organisers said.
Suffering from pulmonary problems, Paul Green and co-driver Matthew Harrison were taken to hospital in Santa Rosa and placed in an artificial coma in a bid to speed up their recovery.
Organisers said it was expected they would be brought out of the coma on Thursday.
The 2009 edition of the gruelling race has been switched this year from Africa to Argentina and Chile because of security fears.
It features 540 competitors from 50 countries and covers 9,000 kilometres spread over 13 stages - three in Chile and 10 in Argentina - with the finish scheduled for Buenos Aires on January 18.
The 2008 Dakar, which was to have started in Lisbon before heading to Africa, was cancelled the day before the scheduled start because of specific terrorist threats made againt the event.
It was the first cancellation in the history of the race since its inception in 1979 due to security concerns after four French tourists were murdered in Mauritania.
On Wednesday's fifth stage the competitors will travel from Neuquen to San Rafael, which includes a 506km special.
Date created : 2009-01-06