Carlos Sainz has taken the lead in the 2018 Dakar Rally from Peugeot teammate Stephane Peterhansel, becoming the first driver to claim back-to-back stage wins in the event's car category.
Sainz had recorded his first stage win of this year's Dakar in the Arequipa – La Paz test, and picked up right where he left off after a rest day in the Bolivian capital.
Opening the road in the 425km timed special, he arrived at the finish after four hours and 49 minutes, clinching a stage win that was made easier by dramas for teammate Peterhansel.
The Frenchman, who had led the way by 27 minutes in the general classification before Saturday's stage, was almost three minutes up on Sainz after the first three waypoints, before hitting a rock while trying to pass a competitor from the bike category.
Peterhansel's 3008DKR Maxi sustained heavy left-rear suspension damage and was left stranded. Fellow Peugeot driver Cyril Despres assisted with repairs and the car eventually resumed the run after losing over an hour and a half.
Peterhansel finally completed the stage 1h48m off Sainz's pace, and slotted into third in the overall classification, between the Toyotas of Nasser Al-Attiyah and Giniel de Villiers.
The latter was runner-up in the stage, while Al-Attiyah scored a close third place.
With teammate Bernhard ten Brinke, who headed both de Villiers and Al-Attiyah at rest day, losing over half an hour, the Qatari is now Toyota's highest-placed driver, 1h11m behind new leader Sainz.
“It's been a very hard rally, today's stage has also been tough, with a very complicated off-track section,” Sainz said. “It's a matter of survival.
“There is still a lot of race left. For us now, it is important to go day by day without problems.
“But there is so much that we have already seen, and there can be new surprises any day.”
Sunday's itinerary will feature a 498km timed special en route to Uyuni, surpassing Saturday's run as the longest test of the 2018 event so far.
It will also mark the conclusion of the 'marathon stage' – with competitors deprived of any technical assistance from their respective teams in the Uyuni bivouac.
Van Genugten leads Iveco 1-2
Team De Rooy Iveco driver Ton van Genugten secured his first Dakar Rally stage win, heading teammate Federico Villagra by two minutes.
Rally leader Eduard Nikolaev of Kamaz was third, retaining a 50-minute lead over Villagra in the general classification.
Siarhei Viazovich and Martin Macik continue the battle for what is currently the final spot on the podium, the former sat almost three hours adrift of Nikolaev but 26 minutes ahead of rival Macik.
Additional reporting by Sergio Lillo
Standings after Stage 7 (Car class, top 10):
|Pos.||Driver / Co-driver||Car||Time/Gap|