Dakar: Coma and Roma beat the heat in Stage 5 (VIDEO, UPDATED)

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Extremely hot temperatures curtailed Stage 5 of the Dakar Rally for the bikes and quads, but that proved especially beneficial for the new leader in the former category, Marc Coma.

Coma (pictured) was leading the stage after the first section of the run from Chilecito to Tucuman, Argentina. But shortly into the second section, he suffered a fuel leak on his KTM.

With the help of his water carrier, Jorge Viladoms, he was able to fix the problem. Then, shortly after that, Dakar officials opted to cancel the second part of the stage and that gave Coma the win.

The stage win propelled Coma into the overall lead in bikes as well, as previous leader Joan Barreda suffered from fuel system and navigational problems en route to a 13th place finish. Barreda slipped just one spot to second in the overall, but now is 41:10 behind Coma.

“It was another tough day,” Coma said. “It was really hot out there. It’s also difficult in terms of navigation as well because of the rain last week which makes it difficult to see anything. To get to the end of the stage, I rode for 10 [kilometers] lost in a river bed.

“In general, it’s tough for everyone. For the race lead, you can lose lots of time at any moment. When you open the way, it’s a bit like playing Russian roulette.”

As for the quads, the top three competitors overall – Sergio Lafuente, Ignacio Casale, and Rafal Sonik – all sustained one hour penalties. With that taken into account, Lafuente is now listed as the overall leader by 16:52 over Casale after his stage win today. Sonik lies in third, 23:12 back of Lafuente.

In the cars, Nani Roma regained the overall lead today with a stage win. Roma finished 4:20 ahead of Giniel de Villiers. American driver Robby Gordon appeared to pull off a third-place finish at 20:12 behind, but was later penalized for missing a waypoint on the course and fell to 19th in the stage.

Stage 4 winner Carlos Sainz followed up with a tough 26th-place result today after several navigational errors and an electrical problem on his SMG buggy.

With a one hour penalty compounding matters, Sainz fell from first all the way to eighth in the overall standings. Nasser Al-Attiyah had elevated to second there behind leader Roma but he too incurred a penalty and is now fifth; as a result, Orlando Terranova is now closest to Roma at 31:46 off the pace.

Dmitry Sotnikov won in the trucks to make a 1-2 finish for the Kamaz team, as teammate Andrey Karginov finished second. But those two, along with everyone else, are still chasing Gerard de Rooy in the category. He sits 32 minutes ahead of Karginov in the overall, with Eduard Nikolaev in third.

MRTI: Barber Motorsports Park Preview

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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After a month break, the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires is back in action this weekend at Barber Motorsports Park, with two of its series tacking the 2.38-mile road course in Birmingham, Alabama.

Both the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires have double-headers this weekend, with Pro Mazda returning to Barber after not running there last year.

The season-opening weekend in St. Petersburg was a tale of two completely different stories, with two different winners – Pato O’Ward and Santi Urrutia – and more than a fair bit of chaos for Indy Lights, while Pro Mazda saw Rinus Veekay sweep the weekend.

Talking points for both series heading into Barber are below.

Indy Lights

Santi Urrutia heads to Barber leading the Indy Lights championship on the strength of finishes of second and first in St. Petersburg. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
  • Santi Urrutia displayed great patience at St. Petersburg, finishing second in Race 1 and winning Race 2 after rivals like O’Ward and Colton Herta faltered. However, Barber has not been one of his better tracks, with finishes of 11th, 15th, and 13th in three of his four Indy Lights starts. Yet, he did win Race 2 at Barber 2016, so he has had success there before, and he will be one of the favorites heading into the weekend.
  • Pato O’Ward looks poised to be a title contender in 2018 and will look to avenge a somewhat disappointing outing at St. Petersburg. O’Ward had the speed to sweep the weekend, winning Race 1 handily and dominating Race 2, but a mistake late in the race saw him overshoot Turn 4 and briefly stall before he could rejoin, relegating him to seventh. If O’Ward can show the pace he showed at St. Pete, he might end up being the man to beat.
  • Colton Herta will look to rebound from a St. Pete weekend in which he flashed the speed that caught everyone’s attention last year, but also committed the same mistakes that ultimately prevented him from taking a championship. After finishing third in Race 1, Herta crashed while chasing then leader O’Ward in Race 2. Herta won Race 2 at Barber last year, and getting another win this weekend, along with staying mistake free, would go a long way to erasing his problems from St. Pete.
  • Aaron Telitz is also looking to rebound after a down weekend, as his St. Petersburg weekend lasted all of two corners across both races – he won the Pole for Race 1, but crashed in Race 2 qualifying, and the Belardi Auto Racing team could not repair the car to allow him to race. After the team borrowed a chassis from Carlin for Race 2, Telitz get collected with Juncos Racing’s Victor Franzoni right off the start, and he crashed again, this time in Turn 2. Telitz finished on the podium at Barber in 2016, the year he won the Pro Mazda championship, and he’ll look for more of the same this weekend.

Pro Mazda

Rinus VeeKay swept the Pro Mazda weekend in St. Petersburg. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
  • Rinus Veekay had a perfect weekend to open the Pro Mazda season. The Juncos Racing driver outdueled Exclusive Autosport’s Parker Thompson for the Race 1 victory, and then ran away with Race 2 to complete the weekend sweep. Veekay was expected to be a title contender after moving up to Pro Mazda in 2018, and if he can repeat his St. Pete performance, then he may leave Barber as the heavy favorite in the championship.
  • Not to be forgotten, Parker Thompson sits second in the Pro Mazda title chase, and looks to avenge losing out to Veekay in St. Pete Race 1, and then fading somewhat to finish fifth in Race 2. Thompson was the only driver to regularly challenge Veekay and Oliver Askew in the 2017 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda season, and he and Exclusive Autosport have adapted nicely to the new Tatuus PM-18. If they can show the same form at Barber, and then finish the job with at least one trip to Victory Lane, then it could set the stage for another titanic Pro Mazda championship fight.
  • Last year’s USF2000 champion Oliver Askew had a quiet weekend in St. Pete, finishing fifth and sixth in the two races. He swept the Barber races in USF2000 last year, and will need a similar performance to vault himself forward from his current place of sixth in the standings.
  • Carlos Cunha and David Malukas head to Barber third and fourth in the championship after solid St. Pete weekends – Cunha had finishes of fourth and third, while Malukas had finishes of seventh and second. Neither was necessarily looked at as a title combatant entering 2018, but repeat performances in Barber could vault them into title contention.

A full weekend schedule, including the Mazda Road to Indy sessions, can be viewed here.

**Note: NBCSN will broadcast Sunday’s Indy Lights race (Race 2 from the weekend) on Monday, April 23.**

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