Joan Barreda

Barreda maintains bike lead in Stage 3 at Dakar (VIDEO)

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Honda’s Joan Barreda notched his second bike class win in three stages so far at the 2014 Dakar Rally, pushing his overall lead over defending class champ Cyril Despres to just past 13 minutes.

Barreda’s Tuesday win also maintained Honda’s perfect score so far at this year’s event. Fellow Honda man Sam Sunderland took Monday’s Stage 2 in addition to Barreda’s triumphs in Stages 1 and 3.

Today’s stage from San Rafael to San Juan, Argentina featured an modified route due to severe weather in the area over the last several days. The bikes and quads got started at the 130-kilometer point of the original route, while the cars and trucks finished their routes at 222 kilometers instead of the original 245 (those classes went off from the original start point).

Barreda set a new altitude record for the Dakar, hitting a height of 4,300 meters as the route crossed the Andes Mountains. He later said it was not easy dealing with the high altitude on his bike.

“It was very exhausting in the high altitude and I needed to stay very calm to avoid mistakes,” Barreda said. “As I was over the highest point, the navigation downhill was getting very delicate, with many changes of directions and possibly wrong ways to follow on very steep trails.

“I stopped and made sure I was choosing the right way several times. Eventually, it paid [off] to keep a cool head.”

In the cars, Nani Roma moved into the overall lead after winning the stage with a time of 2:58:52 in his Mini. As for Stephane Peterhansel and Carlos Sainz – who had been first and second in the category after Monday – they both faltered in Stage 3.

Peterhansel, in particular, suffered through six punctures en route to a 29th-place finish in the stage; Sainz wasn’t much better, finishing 18th.

Roma now holds an overall lead of 9:06 on Orlando Terranova, with Nasser Al-Attiyah in third (+10:00). Sainz fell to fourth (+12:02) and Peterhansel is now fifth (+24:08).

The quad category saw a dramatic turn of events on Tuesday. Marcos Patronelli was forced to abandon the Dakar after he had to jump off his ATV before it tumbled into a deep ravine.

Also suffering from dehydration, the defending Dakar champion is now OK – although according to the Dakar website, he was “raging a little later on at the bivouac in San Juan against the hand fate had dealt him.”

With Patronelli gone and Lucas Bonetto also having mechanical problems, that opened the door for Rafal Sonik to take the stage win and the overall lead in the quads by 6:10 over Ignacio Casale.

Andrey Karginov won Stage 3 in trucks, but Gerard de Rooy was able to solidify his overall lead with a second-place finish. de Rooy now holds the edge over fellow Dutchman Marcel Van Vliet by 18:49.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Gabby Chaves

Gabby Chaves
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MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the driver-by-driver field in the Verizon IndyCar Series. In 15th and the rookie-of-the-year for 2015, was Gabby Chaves.

Gabby Chaves, No. 98 Bryan Herta Autosport Honda

  • 2014: Indy Lights champion
  • 2015: 15th Place, Best Finish 9th, Best Start 12th, 0 Top-5, 2 Top-10, 31 Laps Led, 19.3 Avg. Start, 14.4 Avg. Finish

Some drivers finish better than their performances show. Some drivers have performances better than their results show. The latter statement applied to Gabby Chaves in his rookie year, in what was an impressive first season after making the step up from Indy Lights, which deservedly earned him rookie-of-the-year honors.

The best comparison I’d make for Gabby is of Josef Newgarden in 2012 with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, a first-year driver on a single-car, newish team to the series.

Chaves rarely dazzled in qualifying but that wasn’t his fault; he and engineer John Dick worked well together and Chaves recounted multiple times this year that a tweak here or tweak there, the wrong way, on the aero kit would send them down the wrong setup path.

Results in races didn’t measure up either but again that was through almost no fault of his own. The only time Chaves looked truly like a rookie was at St. Pete, when he had several collisions. Otherwise he was ahead of eventual winner James Hinchcliffe at NOLA before getting punted off, reliable through the month of May in Indianapolis, finally able to break through for a ninth place in Detroit race two, overachieving in Texas, 11th at Milwaukee after some great wheel-to-wheel racing with series winners and champions, and then phenomenal at Pocono as he was on course for a first career win or podium before late-race engine issues – his first DNF of the season.

For both Chaves and Herta, you’d love to see them together for another season, and the results and confidence for both parties will grow as a result. Those who’ve seen Newgarden’s rise over four years with Fisher and now CFH will note the long-term stability, and that’s what Chaves could do if he gets the time.

He planted the seed of being a great IndyCar driver, and he became pretty versatile during the year too with additional appearances in the DeltaWing prototype, a short-track midget and one of Herta’s Red Bull Global Rallycross cars. To boot, he’s a smart, great kid who is mature beyond his years, and someone you should be buying stock in now. Anyone who saw Chaves in the Mazda Road to Indy should not have been surprised by his rookie season in the big cars.

Off The Grid: Monza preview (premieres Saturday 10/10 on NBCSN)

F1 Grand Prix of Italy
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Having already taken you behind the scenes in Barcelona, Budapest, Singapore, Melbourne and Silverstone, Will Buxton and Jason Swales now head to one of Formula 1’s most iconic venues for the latest episode of Off The Grid.

Monza has appeared in all but one F1 season since the formation of the world championship in 1950, and is a firm favorite among drivers, teams and fans alike.

However, there is far more to the Italian Grand Prix than meets the eye, as we find out in Saturday’s premiere of Off The Grid: Monza at 9:30am ET (follows Russian GP qualifying).

Having honed his talents in go-karts as a kid, Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo is now trying to pass on his knowledge to the next generation of racers. But can he teach Will or Jason a thing or two?

We also catch up with Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg and get a feel for life on the road as he takes us for a tour of his lavish bus in which he travels in for the European F1 races.

Have you ever wondered just how the suits F1 drivers wear are made? We go behind the scenes at Alpine Stars’ factory in Italy and find out.

Off The Grid: Monza premieres on Saturday at 9:30am ET on NBCSN following Russian GP qualifying.