BROKEN LEG: Australia's Toby Price is out of the Dakar Rally after a crash on stage four.
BROKEN LEG: Australia's Toby Price is out of the Dakar Rally after a crash on stage four. Martin Mejia

Toby pays the price for broken leg

AUSTRALIAN rider Toby Price has crashed out of the Dakar Rally, breaking his leg on stage four.

The accident handed Spaniard Joan Barreda the favouritism in the motorcycle class after leading by more than 18 minutes.

Matthias Walkner claimed the day's two-wheel win, while Cyril Despres claimed his first stage win of 2017 in the car class.

The 416km test took the rally into the Bolivian Andes, crossing the border out of Argentina along another high-altitude run from San Salvador de Jujuy to Tupiza, featuring soft sand dunes, river crossings and tricky navigation.

The lead see-sawed between Price and Barreda, but Price charged back into the lead soon after the rally entered Bolivia, only to crash with 45km remaining.

He was flown to hospital with a broken left femur, his third Dakar Rally over.

That didn't quite pave the way clear for Barreda to win the day overall - a late charge from Austrian Matthias Walkner pipping Barreda at the finish to ensure the day's win still went to KTM.

"If we are fair, we have to say that the others started first and I started 11h. I had it much easier because I could see more tracks,” Walkner said at the end of the stage.

"The bad thing is that Toby crashed. I hope he is more or less okay. I stopped with him and then they showed me that it was over for him. Health is the most important thing and I hope that he's okay. Of course, I'm happy to finish first, but I hope he's okay.”

Husqvarna's Pablo Quintanilla moves to second after another steady ride, while Walkner is now best of the KTMs after jumping from 10th to third overall with his stage win.

Sven Svitko and Sam Sunderland round out the top five.

Paulo Goncalves provisionally slipped to 10th overall after stopping to help Price, but rules allow organisers to scrub the time he spent at the scene.

"I stopped to help Toby Price, who was ahead of me and I found that he had been injured,” Goncalves said.

"I called and waited for the helicopter and I am confident that they will reinstate me with the time lost.”

Another Australian Rod Faggotter retired from the rally with an engine problem.

Todd Smith was the first Australian home, finishing 13th, while Matt Hart crossed the line 54th.

In the car classification Cyril Despres took his first stage win of 2017 to snatch the overall lead away from Sebastien Loeb, maintaining Peugeot's stranglehold on the rally so far.

It's a grip that tightened overnight with confirmation of Nasser Al-Attiyah's retirement from the rally, his Toyota too badly damaged to repair after hitting a rock on Stage 3.

The day was also tough for Loeb, who lost 22 minutes fixing a turbo issue, while teammate Stephane Peterhansel lost 20 minutes stuck in a river.

His teammates woes left Despres to cruise to victory, the former motorcycle class winner's his first since his switch to four wheels.