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Gruelling stage ahead for Dakar racers

Competitors in the 2014 Dakar Rally face the first marathon stage of the race today in Stage 4.

A technician takes a look at Riaan Van Niekerk’s motorcycle ahead of another day of competition in the 2014 Dakar Rally. Picture: Derek Alberts/EWN Sport

CAPE TOWN - The fourth stage of the 2014 Dakar Rally is underway, taking the competitors from San Juan to Chilecito in Argentina. The drivers and riders will face the longest Dakar stage since 2005, with the trucks and cars facing a marathon 867 kilometers and the bikes and quads having to cross 562 kilometres to reach the stage finish.

Alex Doringer, team manager for the Red Bull KTM factory team, gave EWNSport some insight into what will be going through the competitors' minds as they face the toughest assignment of the 2014 Dakar so far.

"We know that the tyres are going to be under a lot of pressure today. The goal and the truth about a marathon stage is that it is not about racing; it is about surviving. The guys have to use their brains, and they have to think about what they do. The goal is simply to finish."

Yesterday, stage three of the cars was a great one for South Africa's Toyota Imperial team of Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie who finished in third place, with Spain's Nani Roma and his French navigator Michel Perin winning the stage in their Mini.

The result means Poulter and Howie have now moved up to tenth place overall.

Roma and Perin now lead overall after favourite Stephane Peterhansel suffered from six punctures to finish the stage in 29th position and thus drop to fifth position overall.

South Africa's Giniel de Villiers finished stage three in 13th and remains in sixth place overall.

On the bikes, Spaniard Juan Barreda Bort still leads overall after winning stage three, adding to his victory in stage one. South Africa's Riaan van Niekerk finished in 13th place to move to 12th overall riding for Broadlink KTM.

Also on the bikes, but in the male Moto Class, South African Brett Cummings finished in 68th place. Cummings is 56th in the overall standings and lost time when he stopped to help Zambian Dave Reeves who had crashed out. Cummings spoke to EWN Sport about the racing conditions.

"A perfect example of what we have to deal with is the tarmac which is busy melting where we're standing at the moment. When you've got the movement and the flow of air across you it's a lot more comfortable. But in the dunes you can't pick up enough speed, and you start to overheat. Your bike overheats. You dehydrate very easily so you have to remember to drink very often."

Cummings also shed light on the male Moto Class, where he holds second position.

"This is the class in which you are self-sufficient and aren't allowed any assistance.It would be nice having a service crew, but the way I'm doing it is a once-off experience. It's the real, true, original Dakar experience as it was in the years gone by."

_For more on the 2014 Dakar Rally, head to EWN's _ Dakar Portal.