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De Villiers leads Dakar after Sainz crashes

  • Story Highlights
  • Dakar leader Carlos Sainz crashes out of rally during Thursday's 12th stage
  • The Spaniard's Volkswagen careers into a ravine 79 kilometers into the stage
  • Sainz's retirement hands the race advantage to South African Giniel De Villiers
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(CNN) -- South African Giniel De Villiers is the new leader of the Dakar Rally after he won Thursday's 12th special stage and Spaniard Carlos Sainz was forced to pull out following a dramatic crash.

The stricken Volkswagen of Carlos Sainz after he careered down a ravine on stage 12 of the Dakar Rally.

The stricken Volkswagen of Carlos Sainz after he careered down a ravine on stage 12 of the Dakar Rally.

De Villiers, who was claiming his third stage triumph, brought his Volkswagen across the line in four hours, six minutes and 43 seconds -- over 16 minutes ahead of team-mate Mark Miller, who lies second overall.

American Robert Gordon (Hummer) was third on the stage, the same as his overall position.

The route from Fiambala to La Rioja was reduced by 30 kilometers, leaving the special stage at 223km, as organizers accepted the Argentinian authorities' request to shorten it because of the archaeological discoveries made a month ago in the Fiambala region of Catamarca province.

Two-time world rally champion Sainz, who was leading after six stage victories, had his dream of winning his first Dakar ended when, 79km into the stage, his Volkswagen crashed into a dry riverbed.

His co-driver, Frenchman Michel Perin, suffered a shoulder injury and both had to be evacuated by helicopter for medical attention.

Perin told PA Sport: "We had made a small mistake in the first part. We took the wrong direction at a Y crossing but it was not too bad because we did end up on the right trail. We were tailing Giniel De Villiers, who had started about 10 minutes after us, so it was still sort of okay. There was a hidden way-point indicated as 'danger' -- but it should have been indicated as 'extremely dangerous'.

"The car behind us, Nani Roma's car, would have fallen in the same hole as we did if we had not been there already. I'm okay, I just have something broken in my arm, but I'm all right."

De Villiers said: "It was really a tough stage. In places we would go around in circles for 15 minutes to find the right trail. It was very dangerous and the sand was really soft.

"We stopped one time to deflate our tyres, then a second time in a huge canyon with tons of boulders. My co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz had to get out of the car to find a way out. It was really a tough day."

Miller added: "I can tell you that this was a very demanding stage. I cannot even imagine how the amateurs will make it to the finish today. It was not just difficult, navigation was almost impossible. "It was a long series of horror situations from start to finish.

"These were the longest 200km in my life. The sun and the sand were so bright that I could not see anything." He added: "It's not good news to know that Carlos had to withdraw. He has an important place in the team."

In the motorcycle class, title holder Cyril Despres (KTM) kept his hopes of winning his third crown alive after taking his third stage in a time of 3:57:37 to climb into second spot in the overall standings.

However, Despres' Spanish team-mate Marc Coma did not make things easy for the Frenchman as he crossed the line 1:23 behind, to remain out in front with a 1:29:48 advantage.

The 12th stage has been the most difficult since the rally began on January 3 in Buenos Aires, with competitiors struggling through sand dunes and rain in western Argentina.

Sainz had held a commanding lead in the overall standings at the start of the day, having won six of 10 previous stages.

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