Robby Gordon in 10th place

Updated: January 13, 2010, 5:11 PM ET
Associated Press

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina -- Carlos Sainz had two tire punctures and lost more than half of his lead time as the Dakar Rally left Chile and returned to Argentina on Wednesday.

A day after winning his first stage, Sainz finished ninth on the 137-mile route from Santiago across the Andes to San Juan. Sainz's lead of more than 10 minutes was cut to just 4:28 ahead of Volkswagen teammate Nasser Al-Attiyah with three stages to go before the rally ends on Saturday in Buenos Aires.

"We had two slow punctures," Sainz said. "We kept losing time and had to stop. ... There were lots of trees on the stage and we hit quite a few of them."

Guerlain Chicherit of France drove a BMW and won the 11th stage in 2 hours, 34 minutes and 51 seconds. Orlando Terranova of Argentina in a Mitsubishi was second, 30 seconds back, and defending champion Giniel de Villiers of South Africa was third, 39 seconds behind in his VW.

Qatar's Al-Attiyah was fourth, 1:41 back, and Spain's Sainz was 7:19 off the pace.

"The next three days will be very long," Al-Attiyah said. "Yes, absolutely, Carlos is nervous. I want to win the Dakar."

American Mark Miller, driving a VW, is third overall, 23:50 behind Sainz. Miller placed fifth in the stage, 2:50 behind Chicherit.

NASCAR star Robby Gordon, driving a Hummer, is 10th overall, 5:41:38 behind Sainz. Gordon placed seventh in the stage.

Overall motorbike leader Cyril Despres of France continued to hold a commanding lead of 1:20:54 ahead of Pal Anders Ullevalseter of Norway.

Despres finished seventh on a stage won by Frans Verhoeven of the Netherlands on a BMW in 2:44:50. Jonah Street of the United States was second by just 3 seconds on a KTM, and Alain Duclos of France was third, also on a KTM, 1:25 behind.

Ullevalseter was fourth and Despres seventh after the high-altitude start that forced mechanics to tinker with the engines to compensate for the lack of oxygen.

Thursday's 12th stage from San Juan to San Rafael will cover 295 miles starting among ravines and canyons and finishing in sand.

Meanwhile, hospital officials in Chile said Italian motorcyclist Luca Manca was coming out of an induced coma after being taken off a respirator.

The 29-year-old Manca suffered serious head injuries when he fell from his bike last week in northern Chile.

Dr. Alberto Munoz, head of the intensive care unit, said Manca had opened his eyes and was responding to stimulation.


Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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