Posted on January 12, 2011

Qatar's Nasser al-Attiyah took on the top spot in the overall standings of the Dakar Rally Monday, to overtake his Volkswagen team-mate Carlos Sainz. Last year''s runner-up al-Attiyah beat titleholder Sainz - who had led the race since the start - by 6:36 minutes in the eighth stage Monday, to obtain a 5:14-minute lead over the Spaniard in the overall table.

"In the last section of dunes, we were pushing at a maximum because that was where we had to take the time from Sainz," al- Attiyah said, in comments posted on the Dakar Rally website. "I''m happy to win the stage and take the lead in the general standings. I can control the race now."

In the motorcycle section, Spain''s Marc Coma consolidated his overall lead by winning the stage. Coma, who won the Dakar Rally in 2006 and 2009, now leads Frenchman Cyril Despres, who won the race in 2005, 2007 and 2010, by 9:19 minutes. "It was a good stage after a complicated one yesterday. But in the end, everything turned out fine. I''m glad," Coma said.

The eighth stage of the prestigious offroad race stretched 776 kilometres, including a 508-kilometres timed special, from Antofagasta to Copiapo in northern Chile.

The rally began January 1 with a so-called liaison stage starting in Buenos Aires. The race is being staged in Argentina and Chile for the third consecutive year, after security problems drove the event out of its original location in Africa.

Traversing more than 9,500 kilometres including 5,000 kilometres of timed specials, the Dakar Rally is scheduled to end Saturday in the Argentine capital, where winners are to be celebrated a day later.