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Tuesday's fourth stage of the world's most gruelling race was a long one, with teams having to tackle 717km of desert, and it was last year's winner Nasser al-Attiyah that rose to the occasion in his Red Bull Buggy, winning his second successive stage and closing the gap to overall leader Stephane Peterhansel (Mini) to just over five minutes.
10-time winner Peterhansel finished the stage in third spot, just behind the Smg buggy of Guerlain Chicherit.
South Africa's Giniel de Villiers, having lost crucial time in the third stage, had a much smoother run on SS4. The Imperial Toyota Hilux driver finished in fourth place, moving him from sixth to third in the overall race - albeit still over 33 minutes behind the leader.
He also has Mini driver Leonid Novitskiy breathing down his neck, just 26 seconds behind.
De Villiers described it as a good day, but said it was the first really hard stage.
Some of the Dakar's usual front-runners had a far harder time on stage four, however, with 2010 winner Carlos Sainz dropping three hours behind the leader due to problems with his Red Bull Buggy and Robbie Gordon also fell out of contention.
The charismatic American tried a rather ambitious manoeuvre and the gamble ended with his Hummer on its roof and more than two hours lost.
RESULTS - STAGE 4
1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (Buggy) 3h28m46
2. Guerlain Chicherit (Smg) +36 sec
3. Stephane Peterhansel (Mini) +1m17
4. Giniel De Villiers (Toyota) +4:17
5. Nani Roma (Mini) +7:27
6. Leonid Novitskiy (Mini) +13:55
7. Nunzio Coffaro (Toyota) +20:45
8. Ronan Chabot (Smg) +21:07
9. Pascal Thomasse (Buggy Md Rallye) +24:37
10. Carlos Sousa (Great Wall) +26:09
1.. Stephane Peterhansel (Mini) 9h04m29
2. Nasser Al-Attiyah (Buggy) +5m16
3. Giniel De Villiers (Toyota) +33:22
4. Leonid Novitskiy (Mini) +33:48
5. Nani Roma (ESP/Mini) +39:06
6. Guerlain Chicherit (Smg) +42:32
7. Ronan Chabot (Smg) +59:30
8. Bernard Errandonea (Smg) +1h04:54
9. Boris Gadasin (G-Force Proto) +1h22
10. Pascal Thomasse (Buggy Md Rallye) +1h23:56