Australian motorcyclist Daniel Sanders has overcome a painful head-banging scare at the Dakar Rally to keep his title hopes alive.
- Sanders finished stage four in 17th despite a rough landing that saw his airbag deploy, bruising his face
- Australian Toby Price moved into 16th spot, 43 minutes behind the leader
- Extra security was called in after French prosecutors opened a terrorism investigation yesterday into a pre-race explosion
The Victorian's face ended up with bruises after he smashed into the navigation screen on his GasGas 450 during the Saudi Arabian race's longest stage — and one of its most taxing — on Wednesday.
His vest airbag was fortunately deployed when Sanders suffered a jolting landing following a jump amid the dunes late in the 465km trek from Al Qaisumah to the capital, Riyadh.
His face was left bruised but he felt he was lucky to get away without a serious spill, eventually recovering to make it to the finish of the fourth stage in 17th spot.
It moved Sanders up one place to fourth overall, still only seven minutes and seven seconds behind race leader Sam Sunderland, his British teammate for the Spanish GasGas team.
That represents only a small gap in a gruelling two-week affair being run solely amid the sand, rocks, and dunes of Saudi Arabia in the celebrated race's 44th edition.
"I landed off a dune jump on a mound. That's why my face is like this — I face-planted the navigation screen on the front," Sanders told the race's website.
"It was a really rough day. I hit my head pretty hard, but I was really lucky I didn't crash.
"The airbag went off and it was good to just regroup and get to the next refuel, finish strong, and try not to lose too much time today because it was the biggest stage of the race. It was good fun."
Australia's two-time winner Toby Price, on his Red Bull KTM factory bike, came home 29th on the stage and now lies 16th — 43 minutes and 36 seconds behind Sunderland.
In the cars section, Qatar's Nasser Al Attiyah won the fourth stage, extending his overall lead to 38 minutes.
The factory Toyota driver finished second in the special stage but was promoted after Saudi driver Yazeed al-Rajhi collected a two-minute penalty for speeding.
It was the 44th stage win of triple Dakar winner Al Attiyah's career and the second this year, in addition to the prologue.
Nine-times world rally champion Sebastien Loeb, the Qatari's closest rival with the Bahrain Raid Xtreme team, was just 25 seconds behind in second place on the stage, with Audi's Carlos Sainz third.
Race director David Castera told France's L'Equipe newspaper he had asked local authorities for more police protection after French prosecutors opened a terrorism investigation yesterday into an explosion that destroyed a French support car and hospitalised a co-driver.