Disaster hit in stage eight of the gruelling Dakar Rally on Thursday with separate accidents leaving Nissan driver Kenjiro Shinozuka in a coma and ending Alfie Cox’s campaign.

Disaster hit in stage eight of the gruelling Dakar Rally on Thursday with separate accidents leaving Nissan driver Kenjiro Shinozuka (pictured) in a coma and ending Alfie Cox’s campaign.

About 370 km into the special stage in the Libyan desert between Ghat and Sabha, Shinozuka and Thierry Delli Zotti, hit a series of dunes at high speed. The car flew into the air before hitting the sand nose first and cartwheeling. Shinozuka’s face hit the steering wheel.

Both men were evacuated by helicopter to a medical centre in Sabha. Shinozuka is in an extremely serious condition, suffering cranial-facial trauma. The driver is being artificially respirated, and has been moved to Tunisia.

Cox injured the ligaments in his shoulder when he crashed his KTM. He was also airlifted to Sabha and his race is over.

Cox, who was lying in fifth place overall at the beginning of the day, made a navigational error about 60 km into the stage. He took a wrong turn and found himself trapped in a valley. He had to turn around and lost some 20 minutes on the front-running group of which he was part.

"You know what it is like, you take the wrong route and when you realise the mistake you tend to panic somewhat because you have lost so much time," said Cox.

The stage was won by Mitsubishi’s Hiroshi Masuoka, with team-mate and overall leader Stephane Peterhansel in second place. Masuoka finished the stage 5 min 42 sec ahead of Peterhansel, reducing the Frenchman's lead in the overall standings to only 6 min 39 sec.

South Africa's Giniel de Villiers, in the Nissan Hardbody, moved into fourth place overall after finishing fifth on the stage. He is 1 hr 14 min 12 sec behind the leaders, and seven minutes behind the third-placed Gregoire de Mevius.

In the motorbike section, Giovanni Sala of Italy on a KTM won the stage. Jean Brucy of France finished second, 2 min 6 sec behind, while another KTM rider, Cyril Depres of France, was third.

Fabricio Meoni, on a twin KTM 950 LC8, has taken the overall lead. He finished the eighth stage in sixth place, followed by the overnight leader, Richard Sainct. He leads the overall standings 34 seconds ahead of Sainct.

Joan Roma is third at 1 min 7 sec off the lead.

Vicus van Deventer on the DHL Bombardier quad finished in second place and retained his second spot overall in the experimental class for quads behind leader Josef Machacek of the Czech Republic.

Original article from Car