Hirvonen happy with the opening stages of the 2018 Dakar Rally

Hirvonen happy with the opening stages of the 2018 Dakar Rally

Sunderland, riding for dominant team KTM and leading the overall rankings coming into the stage in San Juan de Marcona, withdrew after injuring his back while entering a jump according to the rally organizers.

He got going after nearly half an hour at a standstill, but his Peugeot was soon stuck again and lost another two hours waiting for assistance. "We tried to put air back in and we were stuck again for 30 or 20 minutes". We got to a crest where another auto was stuck. Dune section was really long and hard but I managed that well.

"The auto was going really well". And at the first taste of the high-speed stages in the Dakar, the man has pulled out all stops to register his first win in Dakar 2018.

Peugeot driver Stephane Peterhansel during Stage 4.

In the 5th stage, the organisers separated the route for the Quads/Bikes and Cars/Trucks. He wasn't alone, however, as numerous top drivers lost time in the same area.

"At the first dunes, we went into a big hole and got stuck for 30 minutes, before it happened a second time".

De Villiers posted the third-fastest time on the stage, about five minutes ahead of Sainz, despite suffering a puncture mid-stage.

"Luckily the stage was divided into two sections", said Al-Attiyah, "and we were able to catch up with our technical crew between the sections. We are doing a good job at the moment though".

Toyota endured a hellish fourth stage with two-time Dakar victor Nasser Al-Attiyah and team-mate Giniel de Villiers both stopping on the course for separate issues and lost a huge chunk of time. Loeb finished one minute 35 seconds ahead of teammate Carlos Sainz on Tuesday, and he was more than three minutes in front of compatriot and defending champion Stephane Peterhansel, reports Xinhua news agency. Overall, Mena now stands at the 21st position at the end of stage 5.

TreasuryOne Volkswagen Amarok privateer Hennie de Klerk enjoyed a positive day in the sand, bringing it home 37th for the day to move up one place to 33rd overall, while navigator Rob Howie was 16th after guiding Lucio Alvares home.

RALLY leader Sam Sunderland was airlifted to hospital by helicopter as he quit the race with a frightening back injury.

His exit meant that Yamaha's French rider Adrian van Beveren took over the lead, one minute and 55 seconds clear of Chilean Pablo Quintanilla, after winning the stage.

His five-minute penalty from Stage 3 overturned, Price and Walkner were among a gaggle of riders within five minutes of the lead at the final waypoint, but the Australian would lose a further seven minutes before reaching the finish.

Santosh chose to play it safe and steady as the rally neared the halfway mark to finish the stage at 52nd position. "The stage was tough, especially the last 50km or so", Santosh said.