Competitors in the Dakar Rally had an unexpected break Wednesday when security concerns forced organizers to cancel the 11th stage in Mali.
The stage was originally scheduled to travel from Timbuktu to Nema, but the French Foreign Ministry warned last year of the risk of kidnapping and ambushes by Algerian rebels.
This year's stage was reduced to an untimed 280-kilometer drive on regular roads to Ayoun-el-Atrous in Mauritania. Organizers said that 142 motorcycles, 112 cars and 60 trucks remain in the field.
Thursday's stage covers 484 kilometers and includes a 257-kilometer timed section between Ayoun-el-Atrous and Kayes in Mali.
Stephane Peterhansel of France is atop the car standings, almost 10 minutes ahead of compatriot and defending champion Luc Alphand. Both are driving Mitsubishis. Spain's Marc Coma leads the motorcycle division by nearly one hour over Cyril Despres of France. Both are riding KTMs. The Rally ends in Dakar, Senegal, Sunday.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.