Al Attiyah's comeback
Al Attiyah and his French navigator Matthieu Baumel successfully navigated the pitfalls of stage 4 and strongly came back from a three-minute penalty to finish just 2min 26sec behind Peterhansel.
"We did a great job, but it wasn't easy. We tried to attack near the end, but it was tricky. I'm happy because it looks like tomorrow there'll be dunes on the course. We were cautious," said three-time champion.
Mr Dakar in top gear
Meanwhile, Peterhansel, known as Mr Dakar for his 13 victories in the marathon rally, and his Portuguese navigator Paulo Fiuza threw their Mini across the rocks and sand that made up the greater part of the 453k special which also ran close to the historic Nabatean temples, to finish stage four in 4hr 14min 34sec.
At one point they made a wrong turn which cut away some of their lead but they still came home ahead of Al Attiyah in his Toyota.
"It feels good after all that trouble in the first few days, even though we had a flat tyre and got lost once," said Peterhansel.
Overall leader Sainz, who pulled out a stunning drive to win stage 3, finished third more than seven minutes behind Peterhansel.
"The last 100kms was as difficult as anything I've ever done in my Dakar career. So many rocks and so difficult to find the way. I tried to follow some motorbike tracks, but in a car it's not always possible to pass through these routes. When you finish a stage like this without major problems it's like a victory."
Meanwhile, two-time Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso could not reproduce his great drive on stage three, finishing 26 minutes behind Peterhansel.
Thursday (January 9) brings with it stage 5 and those who remain in the Dakar convoy will be plunged deep into the dunes. Huge descents over desert grass will test each and every competitor as they tackle the 353km timed special stage between Al Ula and Ha'il.