Former MotoGP rider Danilo Petrucci reached a new high on Stage 4 of the Dakar Rally, rocketing to the third fastest stage time and top KTM.

Considered arguably the toughest stage of the Dakar so far, the 465km run featured fast tracks, rocky sections and river crossings.

Setting off 22nd, Petrucci felt comfortable with the high pace and tricky-to-navigate tracks at the beginning of the special. Later finding himself in a group of three, the Italian was able to match the pace of his more experienced competitors and complete the gruelling stage without issue.

“It was a really fast stage today with some very fast pistes. I was able to ride in a group and had a lot of fun, I really enjoyed it," Petrucci said. "It was such a long stage but fortunately I didn’t make any mistakes and was able to find a good rhythm. I learned a lot today too, so now I’m really excited for tomorrow and the rest of the event.”

The former MotoGP race winner reached the finish in a time of 4h 12m 59s, which was 6m 53s behind stage winner Joan Barreda but almost the same margin clear of KTM team-mate and Dakar victory contender Matthias Walkner.

It was an exceptional achievement given the Saudi Arabian adventure is not only Petrucci's first Dakar, but first rally-raid event.

But it was also perhaps a bittersweet result for the Italian 'rookie' given the terminal electrical problem suffered on Stage 2, which meant his 450cc machine had to be recovered by helicopter, putting him out of the overall running.

Today's performance means Petrucci will start near the front for tomorrow's fifth stage.

The 2022 Dakar - currently led by GAS-GAS rider Sam Sunderland, who is three minutes clear of Walkner - concludes on January 14th.