Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo has won Stage 4 of the Dakar Rally after 2017 champion Sam Sunderland copped a five-minute penalty, while Toby Price sits fourth overall.
On a day during which several riders held or at least challenged for the stage lead, Sunderland made ground late in the piece to provisionally edge Cornejo by 11 seconds.
The Red Bull KTM rider was subsequently penalised for speeding in a neutral zone during the 672km journey from Neom to Al-‘Ula, which included 453km of special stage.
As such, Sunderland was classified eighth on a tightly contested stage and dropped a spot to sixth overall, with a deficit of 19:11s to event leader Ricky Brabec.
It also means that Cornejo is now a Dakar stage winner, and lifts him to third in the general classification at 8:31s behind Brabec, his Monster Energy Honda team-mate.
“I’m very happy with the stage victory,” said the Chilean.
“The truth is that I wasn’t expecting it with Sam’s penalisation. I’m really pleased to have achieved my first Dakar stage win.
“Today was a very long stage, very demanding physically and above all mentally.
“The first part was very fast where there was practically no time difference between the riders. From the first refuelling, difficult navigation areas began with poorly visible tracks and many tracks on either side.
“It was quite difficult until I have caught Ricky approximately at kilometre 220 and we helped each other to open the track until the second refuelling.
“I’m very happy with this stage in which we kept a cool head to be able to find the route more easily.”
Brabec led to the first two waypoints, dropped as far as 4:27s off the stage pace when another factory Honda rider in Kevin Benavides took over top spot, before ending up fifth for the day at 2:48s slower than Cornejo.
The American’s overall lead was approximately halved to 2:30s by Benavides, who finished second on the stage.
“I didn’t have the best starting position. I started first,” noted Brabec.
“I was kind of nervous and I thought that I would lose a lot of time today. I’m very happy.
“I rode in front all day long. Then eventually my team-mate Nacho Cornejo caught up with me. We rode together from maybe kilometre 250 to the finish. We did really well.”
Ross Branch came from a way back to finish the stage in third on his Bas Dakar KTM, one spot up on Paulo Goncalves (Hero Motorsports).
Price (Red Bull KTM) is now 12:09s off the event lead, 11 seconds more than he had been at the conclusion of Stage 3, after being sixth fastest to Al-‘Ula.
The Australian’s cause was helped by troubles for a number of other stars of the Bikes class.
Monster Energy Yamaha lost another of its big guns when Xavier de Soultrait finally withdrew having injured his wrist in a crash the day prior, when team-mate Adrien Van Beveren broke a collarbone.
Red Bull KTM’s Matthias Walkner, the 2018 champion, dumped over 20 minutes while Monster Energy Honda’s Joan Barreda Bort lost almost 15 relative to Brabec after he had a spill.
Stage 5 is a 353km special out of a total of 564km, from Al-‘Ula to Ha’il.
General classification: Bikes (Top 10)
|3||Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo||CHI||Honda||+0:08:31|
|7||Joan Barreda Bort||ESP||Honda||+0:25:20|