Aussie Sanders still in Dakar Rally lead

Australian motorcyclist Daniel Sanders still leads the Dakar Rally by over three-and-a-half minutes after the fourth stage of the world's most celebrated endurance race through the Saudi Arabian desert.

The 28-year-old Victorian didn't have a repeat on Wednesday of the spectacular third-stage victory that thrust him into a lead of over four minutes.

Yet he still has command of the demanding two-week challenge, leading his nearest pursuer in the motorcycle class - American Skyler Howes - by 3min 33sec.

But the Red Bull GasGas factory rider, known throughout endurance motorcycling as 'Chucky', has been left concerned about his overall fitness as he continues to battle with the arm troubles he first suffered at last year's race when crashing out of the event while lying third after a couple of stage wins.

He broke his elbow and left wrist on that occasion, had to abandon the race and ended up missing out on virtually the whole season.

"For me now, it's just a case of trying to get some recovery and take it easy for the next few days because my arm is pretty sore already, and the elbow isn't 100 per cent," admitted Sanders after finishing eighth on Wednesday's 373km loop-stage around Ha'il.

"We'll take it easy. It's a long race. I'm just trying to calm myself down every day.

"I said to myself and the family and friends back home that after the year off I'll be happy with a top-10 finish.

"It's been a very long year and we've changed onto a new bike that I've had no time on - I only did five days testing in America in December and back home for two weeks recovery before straight to the race. I just have to gel with it as quick as I can really.

"It's going alright so far and we're in the hunt," added Sanders, who's in his third Dakar after finishing fourth on his debut in 2021.

Sanders' more experienced Australian colleague, two-time winner Toby Price moved up one place to fifth overall on his Red Bull KTM after finishing fourth on the day, 2:32 behind Spanish stage winner Joan Barreda.

Price is now 7:17 behind his compatriot in a field already weakened by the early exits of some of their major rivals, headed by last year's champion Sam Sutherland, a British teammate of Sanders.

In the cars' classification, Sebastien Loeb won stage four but Toyota's champion Nasser Al-Attiyah forged further clear in the lead.

Nine-times world rally champion Loeb beat fellow Frenchman, 14-times Dakar winner Stephane Peterhansel over the dunes, to win by 13 seconds.

It was the Bahrain Raid Xtreme driver's first stage victory of the 2023 event but he's way outside the top 10 after suffering three punctures and losing more than an hour during Monday's second stage.

Four-times Dakar winner Al-Attiyah finished the stage fourth, and now leads Saudi Arabia's Yazeed al Rajhi by 18 minutes 18 seconds.