Danilo Petrucci continued to exceed expectations on his Dakar Rally debut as he posted the third quickest time on the stopwatch through SS4, while British rider Sam Sunderland swelled his advantage out front.
Picking up the pace again following his retirement on SS2, though Petrucci isn’t allowed to be classified officially – with his stage results being given time penalties as a consequence of using his ‘joker’ to re-enter – in terms of pure pace alone, he is proving to be one of the front runners.
It meant that Petrucci completed the arduous 707km Al-Qaisumah to Riyadh leg with a time that placed him behind only the experienced Honda duo of Joan Barrera Bort and Pablo Quintanilla, albeit 15th on the final classification.
Also earning status as the quickest KTM rider of the day, Petrucc’s rapid pace shows what could have been had he not been forced to concede defeat when an electrical problem struck on SS2, where he was also running top five.
It has since emerged Petrucci was unable to fix his KTM 450 Rally because his pack containing a phone – from which to call the team when he stopped – and his passport got lost somewhere along the stage.
As such, he had to send up the emergency flare to have his bike airlifted out of the desert, leading to automatic retirement.
Sam Sunderland extends Dakar Rally lead
Up at the front, British rider Sunderland re-established a comfortable cushion at the head of the standings on the GASGAS factory entry.
The 2017 Dakar Rally winner has led since Stage 1B but looked to be under pressure after SS3 when his advantage was whittled down to just four seconds by Adrien Van Buteren on the Yamaha. However, sixth fastest on SS4 means Sunderland is now three minutes clear of Mathias Walkner, despite yet winning a stage himself.
Behind Walkner, Van Beveren now holds third, while Daniel Sanders made good gains to rise to fourth place on the second GASGAS entry.
Sherco continued its impressive showing with the third and fourth fastest stage times, allowing Lorenzo Santolino up to fifth overall, ahead of stage leaders Quintanilla and Bort.
Top Husqvarna rider Skylar Howes, privateer KTM rider Stfen Svitko and reigning champion Kevin Benavides round out the top ten.