Dakar legend Stephane Peterhansel took the lead of this year's rally after its fourth stage, but only after a long delay for 2010 victor and longtime stage leader Nasser Al-Attiyah.
Frenchman Peterhansel, a winner of the Dakar Rally on two and four wheels, started the day in fifth place, 2m41s off the lead. That small deficit became a healthy lead of just over five minutes by the end of the fourth stage for the X-raid team leader, with Orlando Terranova the only driver to get within six minutes of his time.
His victory owed as much to his own pace as it did to a long stop for Al-Attiyah, however, the Qatari driver having taken the lead of the rally shortly after passing the first checkpoint.
Al-Attiyah continued to extend his advantage at the front until hitting trouble just 40km from the end. He was delayed for around 15 minutes, but managed to get his Hummer back under way shortly after the sister car of team boss Robby Gordon – who suffered a string of mishaps – pulled alongside.
Al-Attiyah was still able to set the seventh best time of the day, but a deficit of 6m34s grew to more than 30 minutes by the stage's conclusion. Gordon, meanwhile, dropped from second to fifth, sacrificing more than 17 minutes to Peterhansel.
Giniel de Villiers also lost time to the Frenchman, but moved up from third to second as a result of Gordon's travails. He now sits 5m41s behind Peterhansel.
Nani Roma, the first driver to start and finish the stage, lies third ahead of his X-raid Mini teammate Krzysztof Holowczyc, who had led the Dakar heading into the fourth stage.
Leading positions after stage four:
Pos Driver Car Time/Gap
1. Stephane Peterhansel Mini 9h43m20s
2. Giniel de Villiers Toyota + 5m41s
3. Nani Roma Mini + 6m44s
4. Krzysztof Holowczyc Mini + 8m10s
5. Robby Gordon Hummer + 16m23s
6. Leonid Novitskiy Mini + 26m25s
7. Nasser Al-Attiyah Hummer + 30m44s
8. Carlos Sousa Great Wall + 30m45s
9. Lucio Alvarez Toyota + 33m11s
10. Erik Wevers Mitsubishi + 36m42s