Dakar: Sainz strong in Stage 4 victory, takes lead in cars (VIDEO)

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Carlos Sainz -“El Matador” – turned in a grande performance during the fourth stage of the 2014 Dakar Rally on Wednesday between San Juan and Chilecito, Argentina.

Sainz (pictured), a two-time World Rally Champion, has secured the overall lead in the car category after finishing more than six minutes ahead of Stephane Peterhansel, who shook off a hellish Stage 3 yesterday to claim runner-up honors.

After his 26th career Dakar stage win, Sainz now finds himself up by 2:06 in the overall standings over Nani Roma, who lost the top spot after finishing fifth in the stage behind Sainz, Peterhansel, Nasser Al-Attiyah, and Federico Villagra.

“At the beginning, we had to drive in the dust, but little by little we managed to overtake several cars,” Sainz said of his Wednesday. “We also got a bit lucky when, about 10 kilometers before the finish, our power steering broke down in a narrow spot amid all the vegetation, but we easily made it to the finish all the same.

“In the second part, there was a waypoint where we went right, but after a while we realized it had to be on the other side, so we headed left and we found it. No big deal, I think everyone made the same mistake.”

Juan Pedrero notched his first-ever Dakar stage win in the bike category, besting runner-up Francisco Lopez by 29 seconds and third-place finisher Marc Coma by over three minutes.

However, Coma chopped into the overall lead held by Joan Barreda, who finished sixth today. What was yesterday a 13-minute-plus edge for Barreda over Cyril Despres is now a smaller lead of 3:10 over Coma, and Lopez isn’t far behind either at just 5:12 off the pace.

As for Despres, he tumbled to sixth in the overall standings after his Yamaha failed on him late in the stage. The defending Dakar bike champ is now more than 41 minutes behind, but vows to continue the fight.

“We’ve just finished stage 4 out of 13,” he said. “The day I give up is the day I should pack up and go home.”

Ignacio Casale re-took control of the quad category with a Stage 4 win, dusting Sebastian Husseini by 12:05. In the overall standings, he now holds an advantage of 9:35 over Rafal Sonik, who finished fourth.

Finally, truck driver Gerard de Rooy earned a Stage 4 win over Andrey Karginov by 1:31. The victory extends his overall lead in the trucks to just over 36 minutes.

“In the second part, we overtook Karginov, who had stopped on the left side of the course with a flat tire,” said De Rooy. “We made a small navigation mistake towards the end, when everyone went right but you actually had to go left, but it was no big deal.

“The only mishap was when I bumped my left wrist against the steering wheel, but it’s nothing to be worried about – some ice, a cool beer and everything will be okay in time for tomorrow.”

‘Game-changing’ multi-year agreement will take INDYCAR, NBC Sports ‘to the next level’


NEW YORK – As the fourth Nor’easter in three weeks bore down on the Big Apple, it was tough to spot people that were clearly in a good mood.

But Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports and NBCSN, was clearly in a good mood.

On Wednesday morning at 10 am ET, we all found out why: NBC will become the exclusive home of the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500, starting in 2019.

The new three-year deal not only makes “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” part of the network’s “Championship Season” – its collection of high-profile championship events from May to July – but also reaffirms NBC’s status as the home of motorsports television in the United States.

That status is something Miller doesn’t take for granted.

“It’s important people know that storytelling is in our DNA, and motorsports lends itself very well to storytelling,” Miller said as he, INDYCAR CEO Mark Miles and driver James Hinchcliffe made a snowy trek to the New York Stock Exchange to promote the deal on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.”

“We’ve had great success with the second half of the entire NASCAR season, and then we’ve had half of the IndyCar package [since 2009] … But we never had the real meat of the series and that didn’t set anybody up for success.

“Having the entire package of IndyCar now – all 17 races, qualifying, practice, you name it – really sets IndyCar on a strong path and solidifies NBC’s position as the home of motorsports. I think it becomes a property much like the Premier League, the NHL, and even the Olympics and the Triple Crown. We have 100 percent of the media opportunity and we can put all those great assets behind it.”

With the storm no doubt keeping some traders home, the floor of the NYSE was relatively subdued. But that made it no less important to be at the heart of Wall Street. Miles and his team are pursuing a new title sponsor for the IndyCar Series to replace Verizon, which will fully focus its efforts in the series with the powerhouse Team Penske going forward in 2019.

The new deal – which includes 8 races per year on the NBC network (with the remaining races going to NBCSN), live streaming of all races, and a direct-to-consumer package with NBC Sports Gold – gave Miles plenty to push for any potential backers. As for Hinchcliffe, he held his own nicely in an interview that also explored IndyCar’s global ambitions, the impact of technology on the sport, and of course, his spin around the ballroom on “Dancing with the Stars.”

On the ride back to 30 Rock, Miles was confident that NBC can play a big role in attracting a sponsor that can help the series keep growing.

“With respect to our work in finding the best title sponsor, it’s really important – and this has not been talked about much – but we expect to work with hand in glove with NBC’s sales,” he explained. “We have the opportunity to create packages which are both broadcast sponsorship and series sponsorship, I think, in a way that doesn’t come along very often.

“Usually, the media deal and the sponsorship deal doesn’t align like this, so we’re really excited about the offering we’ll have and the approach to the market we can take.”

Should the partnership with NBC bear fruit on that front and others, it will only add to the upswing that the IndyCar Series has had in recent years.

Hinchcliffe has been a witness to that. He entered the series in 2011, when it was trying to find its footing after the sport’s reunification three years earlier. After 13 years of CART vs. the Indy Racing League, getting everything back under one roof was not a smooth process.

But fast-forward seven years, and things have changed for the better. TV ratings and digital viewers have gone up. Race scheduling has become more stable and enhanced with the return of traditional open-wheel markets. And this year’s debut of the universal aero kit aims to pump up the action on the track, while also giving the cars a cleaner, meaner look.

Now, with NBC all in, Hinchcliffe is bullish on his sport’s future.

“This is a game-changing thing for us,” he declared. “If you look at the last four or five years, we’ve seen a steady growth in pretty much every measureable metric that there is – in a time where, globally, motorsports is in a bit of a downturn.

“The fact that IndyCar was able to rally against a global dip in motorsports interest, attendance, sponsorship – it speaks volumes to what we have been doing and this is just gonna take us to that next level.”