Mikko Hirvonen is happy with the start of 2018 Dakar Rally, despite making a small navigational error on the second stage of the endurance rally, resulting in lost time. "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.
Briton Sunderland (Red Bull KTM), the defending champion, came back from a rough race on Sunday to finish first in the motorbike category for the second time in three stages and take a lead of almost five minutes over Argentina's Kevin Benavides (Monster Energy Honda).
With the WRC legend ruled out, his Peugeot teammates Peterhansel and Carlos Sainz were left standing as the two frontrunners in the vehicle class, and it was the former who bolstered his chances with a strong time through Wednesday's test.
Dutch driver Bernhard ten Brinke of Toyota finished the stage 4:52 behind Peterhansel.
Ten Brinke is 1:15:16 behind Peterhansel. He wasn't alone, however, as numerous top drivers lost time in the same area.
Sainz, having got stuck in the dunes early on, was 18 minutes down at the finish line, and now trails Peterhansel by over half an hour in the general classification.
It was a tough day for Al-Attiyah; the current Cross-Country World Cup title holder started the day on a charge, and quickly made up some time over the leaders, only to be slowed by a gearbox problem. "We had two flat tyres at the beginning and afterwards we took care because we didn't have any spares", al-Attiyah told the Dakar website. Peterhansel's general classification lead stands at 6m55s from Loeb with Sainz another six minutes further back, while Toyota's best hope Al-Attiyah is now nearly an hour behind the leader after a nightmare day.
Reigning bikes champion Sunderland dropped out of this year s race with a back injury and was taken to Lima for medical checks, allowing Frenchman Adrien Van Beveren to take the overall lead after winning Tuesday s fourth stage. "It was a very good day especially in a very hard stage, with the dunes and the navigation needed".