SANTIAGO, Chile -- Two-time World Rally champion Carlos Sainz has stretched his overall lead in the Dakar Rally with a second-place finish behind Stephane Peterhansel in Sunday's eighth stage from Antofagasta to Copiapo in the Atacama desert.
Sainz of Spain leads Volkswagen teammate Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar by 14 minutes, 35 seconds in the car category's overall standings. American Mark Miller is third, 22:28 off the pace.
"I'm very pleased because the hardest stages are behind us now," Sainz said. "It was a good stage because I've increased the gap between me and Nasser a bit."
Peterhansel, the nine-time winner from France, won the 472-kilometer stage in 5:06:05 in a BMW -- 45 seconds ahead of Sainz and 1:07 in front of Miller.
Robby Gordon finished 10th in the eighth stage, 36 minutes and 59 seconds behind Peterhansel. After Sunday's stage, Gordon remained 10th overall, more than five hours behind Sainz.
In motorbikes, Chilean rider Contardo Lopez won the stage, but Cyril Despres stayed far in front in the overall standings by finishing fifth.
Despres is a huge 1:20:31 ahead of Pal Anders Ullevalseter of Norway.
Lopez won the bike stage in 5:29:25 on his Aprilia, 42 seconds in front of defending champion Marc Coma on a KTM. Ullevalseter was 1:22 behind the winner.
Coma has been plagued by mechanical problems throughout the race, and on Saturday he was hit with a six-hour penalty by race stewards for illegally changing a tire during Friday's stage.
Coma threatened to pull out on Saturday -- a rest day -- but was back in the race on Sunday.
Coma was 19th in the overall standings after Sunday, 7:00:49 behind Despres.
"It was a difficult day, especially because of [Saturday] and this problem with the penalty," Coma said. "It really was a strange rest day, hard and unusual. [Sunday] I climbed back on my bike to try, like I always do, to do my best and forget all that as well. It was a fine stage with magnificent dunes at the end."
Argentine brothers Marcos and Alejandro Patronelli were also back after Saturday's rest day. They also threatened to withdraw after Marcos was penalized three hours for changing a tire in Friday's stage. However, Marcos Patronelli's penalty was later lifted.
Marcos won Sunday's quad bike stage and is also the overall leader. Alejandro was second on Sunday and is second overall.
Monday's ninth stage is from Copiapo to La Serena. The rally ends Saturday in Buenos Aires and Sainz and Despres are starting to look like the eventual champions.
Versus will provide coverage throughout the United States. A 30-minute daily program featuring highlights from that day's racing will be aired 3:30 p.m. ET daily. The show is set to air Jan. 3-18. An hour-long recap featuring all 14 stages will air at 3 p.m. ET on Jan. 24.
Robbygordon.com, planetrobby.com, Twitter and NASCAR.COM also will have updates on the teams' performance including a daily recap, photos and videos. - AP