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Peterhansel leads Dakar into Bolivia

La Paz, Bolivia: Defending champion Stephane Peterhansel led the Dakar Rally into Bolivia on Thursday but Peugeot teammate Carlos Sainz trimmed the Frenchman's lead with his first stage win of this year's event.

Peterhansel ended the sixth stage from the Peruvian city of Arequipa to La Paz with a 27-minute advantage over the Spaniard, a two-times world rally champion and father of the Formula One driver with the same name.

Sainz, 55, clocked 2hr 53min 30sec for the 313km timed run of the gruelling stage, 4min 06sec ahead of Peterhansel who retains the overall lead.

Sainz was also 5min 05sec in front of 2011 and 2015 Dakar champion Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah in a Toyota.

Peterhansel has won more Dakars than anyone and is now chasing his 14th title in a gruelling event that ends in Argentina on Jan. 20.

The car category now looks sure to be won by one of the Peugeot drivers in what is also the manufacturer's farewell to the event.

However, nothing can be taken for granted in the treacherous and tricky conditions.

In the motorcycle standings, Argentina's Kevin Benavides took over the lead from Yamaha's French rider Adrien van Beveren.

The Honda rider ended the stage a minute and 57 seconds clear of his Yamaha rival.

Earlier, the rally was caught up in violent street battles being fought between protesters and police in the tense Bolivian capital.

Around 100 demonstrators clashed with police who used tear gas and pepper spray to quell the trouble which spread to a road being used by the competitors.

"We want hospitals, not the Dakar," chanted protesters, aiming their frustrations at President Evo Morales, who has been in power since 2006 and hopes to stay there until 2025.

Empty water bottles and chairs were thrown in the direction of the main official Dakar vehicle which led the competitors into La Paz.

Friday is a rest stage in La Paz.

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