France’s nine-time World rally champion Sebastien Loeb clinched his first stage win of the 2018 Dakar Rally as Peugeot claimed all three podium places in southern Peru. 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. The result lifted Loeb to second in the overall standings, just under seven minutes behind Peterhansel.

“I’m not going to gain time by losing stages,” said Loeb, who is aiming to win the prestigious off-road event for the first time. “It was a very good day especially in a very difficult stage, with the dunes and the navigation needed. We’re not complaining.” Frenchman Adrien Van Beveren took the overall lead in the motorcycle category by winning Tuesday’s fourth stage on his Yamaha. Van Beveren finished five minutes ahead of teammate Xavier de Soultrait, with Austria’s Matthias Walkner seven minutes off the pace on his KTM. The Hero MotoSports team racers Oriol Mena and CS Santosh too gained positions and improved their rankings.

Both the Hero MotoSports Team Rally riders pushed hard today to overcome this tough stage for the team. Oriol Mena continued his fine form of yesterday to begin the stage well but lost some time in finding a waypoint in the later part of the stage. He finished the stage at 33 position, which now places him at 24 positions in the overall rankings.

CS Santosh came out with a purpose and rode hard to cover a lot of positions today despite a nasty crash in the 2nd half of the stage. He gained over 40 positions on his overnight ranking of 98, to finish the stage and overall at 56th place. The stage offered a changed landscape and a different kind of start to break the mould. It started on the beach front in a mass start format with 15 bikes per set. After this sprint along the beach, the competitors were challenged to tackle one of the longest sandy section ever in the history of the Dakar, a total of 100 kms with dunes of all sizes making up a total stage run of 444km including the special stage of 330 kms. Next stage will see the rally moving to Arequipa where competitors will tackle the sands of Tanaka and a 30 or so km of mountain dune sections making up the longest stage yet, with 774 kms to be covered including the liaison.

“We started the stage today on the beach. I knew it was going to be a tough day because I was starting with a lot of riders in front of me. I tried to push myself hard and did all I could and so I managed to cross a lot of riders. Dune section was really long and difficult but I managed that well. Towards the end I had a massive crash because of a rock hidden inside a fesh-fesh, but I am ok and the bike is ok so we live to fight another day,” said Santosh who gained 40 positions in the rankings.

Provisional Stage 4 Classifications

1. Adrien Van Beveren Yamaha Factory Racing Yamaha 04h 08m 23s

2. Xavier De Soutrait Yamaha Factory Racing Yamaha +05m 01s

3. Matthias Walkner RedBull KTM Factory Racing KTM +07m 10s

33. Oriol Mena Hero Motosports Team Rally Hero MotoSports +40m 55s

56. C.S. Santosh Hero Motosports Team Rally Hero MotoSports +01h 20m 40s

Overall Provisional Classifications after Stage 4

1. Adrien Van Beveren Yamaha Factory Racing Yamaha 11h 03m 23s

2. Pablo Quintanilla Husqvarna Factory Racing Husqvarna +01m 55s

3. Kevin Benavides Honda Factory Racing Honda +03m 15s

24. Oriol Mena Hero Motosports Team Rally Hero MotoSports +01 00m 46s

56. C.S. Santosh Hero Motosports Team Rally Hero MotoSports +03h 27m 31s

(With agency inputs)