Al-Attiyah stretches Dakar lead in pursuit of 3rd title

Arequipa - Two-time champion Nasser al-Attiyah extended his lead in the Dakar Rally on Thursday, winning the fourth stage between Arequipa and Tacna.

Qatari driver al-Attiyah, the 2011 and 2015 champion, had already won the first stage of this year's event on Monday behind the wheel of his Toyota.

On Thursday, he edged out 13-time champion Stephane Peterhansel, in a Mini, by 1:52 and Jakub Przygonski, also in a Mini, by 8:49.

Overall, al-Attiyah leads Peterhansel by 8:55 ahead of the fifth stage between Tacna and Arequipa.

"I'm pretty happy. I won the stage and it was very important to stay close to Stephane Peterhansel as there is still a long way to go before the end," said al-Attiyah.

Meanwhile, nine-time world rally champion Sebastien Loeb, who won the second stage on Tuesday, suffered three punctures and finished 12:23 behind al-Attiyah.

The Frenchman, driving a private entry Peugeot, is sixth overall, more than 50 minutes behind the Qatari.

"It was a very complicated stage and it's shame because the rhythm was very good," he said.

In the motorcycling race, America's Ricky Brabec took the stage and top spot in the overall standings on his Honda, finishing 6:19 ahead of Austria's Matthias Walkner and 7:07 in front of Australia's Toby Price.

Overall, the Californian enjoys a 2:19 advantage over previous leader Pablo Quintanilla of Chile while he has a 4:22 edge on Price.

Thursday's win for Brabec was particularly uplifting as he had got lost on Wednesday's third stage.

"I needed it. Yesterday was tough on me and I lost a lot of time," he said.

"My body is still 100%, the bike is still 100%. We'll go back and do a quick review of the bike and then put it to sleep for the night."

Defending champion Walkner fears his race may be over after suffering a nasty fall on the stage.

"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," said the Austrian.