The section that resumed the competition for motorcycles and quadricycles, after the cancellation of stage 7 due to weather factors and fatigue in the riders, was awarded to Ross Branch (Hero Motorsport), a Botswana driver, followed by Australian Daniel Sander (Red Bull GasGas) at 3:33 and the American Mason Klein (Bas World KTM) at 3:33.
Benavides (Red Bull KTM) posted a 9:18 gap to the winner but his time was enough to pass his teammate Price overall for second place, just 1:13 behind Howes (Husqvarna Factory Racing) along with Klein.
In this way, the Argentine managed to close the first half of the most extreme race in the motoring world with a reduced distance that will allow him to face the search for his second Dakar title with expectations.
Between fourth and eighth place in the accumulated table are other contenders for the crown less than 10 minutes apart: Price, Chilean Pablo Quintanilla (Monster Energy Honda), Frenchman Adrien Van Beveren (Monster Energy Honda), Sanders and the Spanish Joan Barreda Bort (Monster Energy JB).
The Argentines Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) and Franco Caimi (Hero) are eleventh at 25:32 and fifteenth at 1:16:29, respectively.
In quads, Andújar repeated Friday’s victory with a 2:05 lead over defending champion and comfortable overall leader, Frenchman Alexandre Giroud, who has a handicap of 1 hour and 41 minutes.
The Brazilian Marcelo Mederos completed the podium of the stage (+11:55); Pablo Copetti from Cordoba, with an American license, finished sixth (+20:34) and Argentine Francisco Moreno Flores, eighth (+42:11).
Andújar, one of the four Argentine champions of the category (2021), recovered from a rollover with his Yamaha Raptor 700 and was able to sign the second consecutive victory, fourth in his history in the rally.
The Frenchman Sebastian Loeb (Bahrain Raid Xtreme) won the eighth stage in the car division, after a tough dispute with the Spanish Carlos Sainz (Team Audi Sport), who re-engaged in the race after the accident on Friday that left him with no chance of fighting for the championship.
Sainz set the fastest time on the trial but a 5-minute charge for speeding relegated him to third place (+3:31) behind the Frenchman and Qatari Nasser Al-Attiyah (Toyota Gazoo Racing).
Al-Attiyah seems on track to renew the crown with a favorable difference of 1:03:46 over his escort in the accumulated, the South African Henk Lategan, teammate.
Juan Cruz Yacopini (Overdrive Racing) is the best positioned Argentinian in the tenth step of the standings, far from the fight for the lead. His from Mendoza Sebastian Halpern (X-Raid Mini JCW) is fourteenth.
Jeremías González Ferioli (South Racing Can Am) from Córdoba was the winner of the stage in the SSV division, in which he is fifth, 42:53 behind the Lithuanian leader Rokas Baciuskas (Red Bull Can Am).
The 45th Dakar will complete its recess today and will resume activity tomorrow with the Riyadh-Haradh section, 686 kilometers (358, special).