Nasser Al-Attiyah extends overall Dakar lead with stage four victory
The marathon stage four of the Dakar Rally kicked off on Thursday from Arequipa to Tacna with 663km of liaison followed by 405km of racing.
The battle of the cars heated up between Al-Attiyah and Stephane Peterhansel, while Matthias Walkner’s fate is shrouded in doubt after an injury.
Al-Attiyah of Toyota Gazoo Racing again dominated the fourth stage with a time of 3 hours and 38 minutes to extend his overall lead to nine minutes over Wednesday's stage winner Peterhansel, who had yet another strong performance, just under two minutes off Al-Attiyah’s pace, followed by Jakub Przygonski, third.
"I’m quite happy today," commented Al-Attiyah. "We won the stage, but there is perhaps still a faster car out there. It was very important to catch Stephane and stay with him all the way.
"Yeah, I’m quite happy. Everything is ok – there are no problems. Later we will check the car. There is still a long way to go. Me and Stephane we are in the lead now and I'm quite happy, we'll just keep going like this."
Sebastian Loeb suffered 30 minutes of lost time after suffering three of punctures, but recovered well placing fifth, and sitting just over 12 minutes off the pace.
Carlos Sainz also recovered well from Wednesday's suspension disaster, which cost him his shot to reclaim his title, remaining in the top 10 after the fourth stage in 7th, ahead of fellow X-Raid Mini JCW team-mate Cyril Desires.
In the bike category, Ricky Brabec of Honda set a cracking pace in the marathon stage with a time of 3h 40m. However, the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team proved to be formidable opponents and were hot on the American’s heels with Walkner nabbing second ahead of Toby Price and Sam Sunderland, fourth, conceding just over 11 minutes from the lead.
However Walkner suffered a heavy landing after a jump resulted in a suspected ankle injury in the last 50kms of the marathon stage, shrouding Friday's stage with doubt for the Austrian.
"My ankle feels quite hurt," he said. "Fifty kilometres before the end I did a big jump and landed heavily. First I was thinking, ok, maybe it’s broken. It’s really painful now, but we will see how it is tomorrow and I’m going to put some ice on it. It was ok in the end [for the marathon stage], because I didn’t crash and the bike is running well, plus we are like a big group and a team and we help each other, so everything is good."