Dakar: Sainz, Barreda win in Stage 7 but are still chasing overall leaders

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After a rest day on Saturday, the 2014 Dakar Rally kicked off its seventh stage from Salta, Argentina today. But instead of going along with the bikes and quads into Bolivia, the cars stuck around Salta instead by racing in a 500 km long loop route.

In the cars, Carlos Sainz (pictured, No. 303) earned his second stage win of this year’s Dakar, beating Nasser Al-Attiyah by four minutes, 45 seconds and Stephane Peterhansel by seven minutes, 26 seconds.

However, Nani Roma’s fourth-place finish (+8:56 behind Sainz) allowed him to keep grip on the overall lead in the class by 31:53 over Peterhansel. As for Sainz, he still has a lot of work to do as he remains almost two hours off the pace in sixth.

“In all honesty, everything went smoothly, and from now on we’ll be following this strategy: Trying to to win all the remaining stages until [the finish at] Valparaíso,” Sainz said.

Meanwhile, Peterhansel’s attempt to peel off a more substantial amount of time from Roma was thwarted by – no, we’re not kidding here – llamas.

“Finding our way around wasn’t overly difficult, but that didn’t mean opening the course was easy, as we came across herds of llamas several times and had to brake hard and then drive carefully while they got out of the way,” the 11-time Dakar champ said.

“We scared them away for the other drivers and it cost us some time, because when you go down to 50 km/h, at this altitude it takes a while before you get back to 160!”

The bike and quad racers did cross the Bolivian border, going into the city of Uyuni today. In the bikes, Joan Barreda took his third stage victory of the event by four minutes, three seconds. But finishing runner-up behind him was overall leader Marc Coma, who still holds a lead of 38:14 over Barreda.

Ignacio Casale grabbed the Stage 7 win in the quads by almost eight minutes, and also re-claimed the overall class lead over Sergio Lafuente just as the rally prepares to enter his home country of Chile. Casale’s lead over Lafuente, however, is a slim one at 6:15.

The truck stage was taken by Eduard Nikolaev by 3:45 over Kamaz teammate Dmitri Sotnikov, but overall leader Gerard de Rooy picked up a third-place finish and still has a steady lead of almost 38 minutes over Andrey Karginov.

MRTI: Juncos signs Carlos Cunha for Pro Mazda campaign

Photo: Juncos Racing
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Juncos Racing continued to bolster its entries in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires by signing Carlos Cunha to pilot a third Juncos Pro Mazda entry for 2018. Cunha, who finished third in the 2017 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda season on the back of seven podium finishes, joins Rinus VeeKay and Robert Megennis in Juncos’ Pro Mazda lineup for 2018.

Cunha previously tested with the team at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in October and joined Juncos for the Chris Griffis Memorial test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in November, testing cars for both the Pro Mazda and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires teams.

“It’s great to become a part of Juncos Racing,” said the 18-year-old Cunha. “I am really excited to start the 2018 season with Juncos Racing. This fall we did some testing together and from there I was able to see how focused everyone on the team is and I even felt like I became a part of their family in no time. I am confident we will get great results together next year and I look forward to learning and growing more with the team. It will be a huge pleasure and also a great responsibility to carry the number one on my car, thanks to (2017 Pro Mazda champion Victor Franzoni) and I hope to deliver it back to the team at the end of the year!”

Team owner Ricardo Juncos added, “We are excited to add Carlos to our Pro Mazda lineup. From the moment we started testing with him in early October, we knew he would be a great fit for our team. Carlos has been very quick in testing and even had an impressive showing in the Indy Lights car at the Chris Griffis test back in October. He had a great run this past season in the Pro Mazda series and we are confident he will carry that momentum into the 2018 season.”

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