Peugeot’s Sebastien Loeb won an drama filled stage four of the 2018 Dakar Rally, which saw the victory aspirations of two major challengers end.
Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Nassar Al-Attiyah suffering two punctures right at beginning the stage and lost almost an hour to try and change them.
The Qatari is now fourth in the standings fifty eight minutes off the lead, but he had better luck than his team-mate Giniel de Villiers who suffered three punctures.
Yet his problems were minor compared to former leader Cyril Despres.
The French Peugeot driver was forced to stop with broken suspension but was unable to change it without outside assistant, leaving him stranded in the stage and forcing him to retire from the rally.
All this helped improve his team-mate, current leader Stephane Peterhansel’s bid to win another Dakar.
The 13 time winner holds a seven minute lead over Loeb, whose stage win saw him move up from fifth to second place in the standings.
Carlos Sainz was second fastest in the stage, 1 minute 35 seconds behind team-mate Loeb and now occupies the final podium spot ahead of Toyota drivers Al-Attiyah and Bernhard ten Brinke.
The top ten is rounded out by Eugenio Amos (2WD), Khalid Al Qassimi (Peugeot), de Villiers, Martin Prokop(Ford) and Jakub Przygonski (Mini).
Reigning Dakar Bikes Champion Sam Sunderland saw his bid to retain his crown end after being airlifted to hospital after suffering an accident in the stage.
The British rider, who was leading at the time, suffered a massive compression after hitting a hole.
He attempted to continue but after a few kilometers he pulled over complaining of a lack of feeling in his legs and was airlifted to hospital with a suspected back injury.
The stage was won by French rider Adrien van Beveren who also inherited the lead of the rally from the departed Sunderland.
He was five minutes faster than fellow French Yamaha team-mate Xavier de Soultrait which gives him a 1 minute 55 second lead over Chile’s Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna).
Argentinian Honda rider Kevin Benavides rounds out the podium.
Eduard Nikolaev continued to dominate the Dakar Trucks category and was the only trucker not to encounter problems during the day.
There was little to separate the Kamaz trucker from his closest rival Federico Villagra throughout most of the day, but the Iveco trucker struck trouble in the final session dropping 28 minutes and falling 36 minutes behind Nikolaev in the general standings.
Yet his time was second quickest as the other challengers for victory, Kamaz truckers Ayrat Mardeev and Anton Shibalov, endured even worse delays.
Their misfortunes saw Belorussian MAZ trucker Siarhei Viazovich into third place, but he is 2 hours and 22 minutes behind the leader.
Sergey Karyakin ended general standings leader Ignacio Casale domination of the event, as the Russian Yamaha rider beat his Chilean rival by 43 seconds.
Despite this win, it has not severely dented Casale’s 25 minute lead, but has allowed Karyakin to increase the gap between him and third place Alexis Hernandez (Yamaha) to 10 minutes.
Polaris rider Patricie Garrouste took stage honours and the lead of the category as previous leader Juan Uribe Ramos was delayed by two and half hours.
His problems have allowed Garrouste to take a 1 hour 43 minute lead over Can-Am rider Ramos who in turn holds a 13 minute advantage over team-mate Reinaldo Varela.