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Dakar Rally claims star duo on only day four

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Australian biker Toby Price waves at the official launch ceremony for the 2017 Dakar Rally, on January 1, 2017 in Asuncion © AFP/File / NORBERTO DUARTE

SAN SALVADOR DE JUJUY, Argentina, Jan 5 – Defending motorcycle champion Toby Price was forced out of the Dakar Rally on Thursday after breaking his left leg, joining two-time auto winner Nasser Al Attiyah on the sidelines on just the fourth day of racing.

Australian rider Price suffered his race-ending injury when he tumbled off his KTM motorbike after 371km of the fourth stage from San Salvador de Jujuy in Argentina to Tupiza in Bolivia as the 9,000km race climbed into the dizzying altitudes of the Andes.

The 29-year-old had to be airlifted off the course, which hit 3,000 metres above sea level, to hospital.

Earlier in the day, Qatar’s Al Attiyah, the 2011 and 2015 champion, was also forced to pull out after his Toyota lost a wheel on Wednesday’s third stage, a setback which left him stranded for over an hour.

The 46-year-old had been among the pre-race favourites and was sitting second in the overall standings behind Peugeot’s Sebastien Loeb before Wednesday’s action.

However, he was down in 25th place overall on Thursday morning, more than two hours off the lead, and did not even start the fourth stage.

“The damage to his Toyota Hilux is too extensive to be repaired by his team,” organisers said.

Toyota’s pilot Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar, cools himself down after the Stage 2 of the 2017 Dakar Rally between Resistencia and San Miguel de Tucuman, in Tucuman, Argentina, on January 3, 2017 © AFP/File / Franck FIFE

Austria’s Matthias Walkner, on a KTM, took victory on the fourth moto stage ahead of Spain’s overall leader Joan Barreda on a Honda.

Walkner finished 2min 2sec ahead of Barreda while French rider Michael Metge on another Honda was third, 3min 18sec behind Walkner.

“I am happy with my victory today but I just hope Toby is OK,” said Walkner.

Barreda has a 22min 16sec lead over Chile’s Pablo Quintanilla, who is on a Husqvarna, in the overall standings.

“Today was really difficult, especially the first 70 kilometres, with amazing navigation… at two points I was not really sure, but finally I trusted myself,” said Barreda.

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