2014 Dakar Rally - Day Four

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.”

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Sage Karam

Sage Karam
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MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series field, driver-by-driver. Ending in 20th was Sage Karam, who generated a lot of headlines despite missing a handful of races in his first full season in the big leagues.

Sage Karam, No. 8 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet

  • 2014: 9th place at Indianapolis 500; several starts in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship
  • 2015: 20th place (12 starts), Best Finish 3rd, Best Start 3rd, 1 Podium, 2 Top-5, 2 Top-10, 12 Laps Led, 14.5 Avg. Start, 15.8 Avg. Finish

Few drivers generated as much ink as Karam did during what as an ultimately race-by-race rookie season that saw him active in 12 of 16 races. It was an overall rocky campaign that featured any combination of brilliance, controversy and heartache depending on the weekend.

Karam was on the back foot to begin with anyway with limited preseason testing, following a wrist injury sustained in a crash at Barber Motorsports Park. The fact he was out of a car for Long Beach and the Grand Prix of Indianapolis owed to financial reasons but also served as a wakeup call that he needed to improve off the back of several ragged races to open the season. The speed was there for the Indianapolis 500 but the result wasn’t, with a first-lap crash and the following debacle of a doubleheader weekend at Detroit a week later ultimately Karam’s nadir.

Luckily for the 20-year-old, he had Dario Franchitti as a tutor, mentor and coach, and a post-Detroit “come to Jesus” meeting might have been the biggest impetus for change. Karam then surged in the second half of the year – primarily on ovals – and worked his way into the headlines courtesy of his driving and take-no-prisoners aggressive approach, particularly with Ed Carpenter at Iowa. In a single sentence, he was worth the price of admission almost on his own while also putting himself in contention for series “black hat” status.

Karam was on track for what would have been a dream weekend at home in Pocono, leading with 20 laps to go, when he lost control and crashed out – the debris from the car ultimately striking Justin Wilson’s helmet. It was a tragic end to the race but it was no fault of Karam’s that what happened, happened.

For as much as the community is rallying around Wilson’s family, it needs to do the same for Karam. At 20, he’s a talented driver with a bright future ahead of him, who continued to mature over the course of the season. You just don’t want Pocono to be the race that affects him psychologically, and prevents him from fully realizing his undoubted potential.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Stefano Coletti

Stefano Coletti
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MotorSportsTalk continues its look through the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series driver-by-driver lineup. In 19th place and the second-ranked rookie this season, was KV Racing Technology’s Stefano Coletti.

Stefano Coletti, No. 4 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet

  • 2014: GP2
  • 2015: 19th Place, Best Finish 8th, Best Start 8th, 0 Top-5, 1 Top-10, 0 Laps Led, 18.9 Avg. Start, 18.6 Avg. Finish

Coletti struggled in his rookie season, which was a bit surprising after an impressive preseason testing period that helped him secure the second KV Racing Technology car alongside KVSH Racing lead driver Sebastien Bourdais.

The GP2 graduate produced early season excitement where he was a passing star, but that only seemed to deceive for the rest of the year. The only time he started ahead of Bourdais was at Iowa, when Bourdais crashed in qualifying.

Similar to other drivers KV has had in previous years Coletti was often hard on equipment, with a frequent number of either full-on accidents or less damaging spins, although not all were his fault. A trouble-free weekend for him rarely occurred, and eighth at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis marked his only top-10 result of the year.

It was a year that paled in comparison to Sebastian Saavedra’s difficult 2014, which paled in comparison to Simona de Silvestro in 2013, which… well you get the point. The lack of consistency for the team’s second car probably doesn’t help, but Coletti offered few moments of brilliance in a deep field where he needed to stand out.

Given the resources at his disposal, ending 78 points behind rookie-of-the-year Gabby Chaves seemed a fairly substantial margin. If he returns for 2016, he has a big jump to make.