Dakar: Barreda shakes off penalty, wins Stage 10; Sainz out

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Today, Joan Barreda began what he surely hopes will be a major rally in the late running of the 2014 Dakar Rally with his fourth stage win of the event in the bikes, 0vercoming a penalty yesterday for speeding in a radar-controlled section.

According to Barreda’s Honda camp, an alarm system that reminds the racers when they’re entering a reduced speed zone failed to go off and the Spaniard momentarily went over the limit.

Nonetheless, Barreda led a grand day for Honda in which he won the stage by eight minutes over teammate Helder Rodrigues. Behind them in third was defending Dakar bike champ Cyril Despres, who netted a Top-3 result for the fourth consecutive stage.

Overall leader Marc Coma finished fifth today on the route from Iquique to Antofagasta, Chile, which was enough to somewhat minimize the damage done to his lead by Barreda, his main rival for the championship. With three stages to go, Coma holds a lead of 44 minutes, 24 seconds over Barreda.

“We’ll see how it goes tomorrow,” said Barreda, who must remain in attack mode in order to have any hope of tracking down Coma. “It’ll be difficult again because there’ll be lots of kilometers and the dunes of Copiapó. The day after that will also be tough. We’ll see, we’re getting closer. Nothing is lost yet. Marc [Coma] has a sizeable lead, but anything can happen.”

The car category saw Stephane Peterhansel continue his final assault on overall leader Nani Roma, while “El Matador” Carlos Sainz has withdrawn from the Dakar.

Sainz, one of the pre-event favorites, tweeted in Spanish that he was involved in an accident while searching for fuel on the link route that connected the two timed sections of Stage 10:

He later tweeted a shorter message in English:

While Sainz suffered, Peterhansel chalked up a second place finish to Nasser Al-Attiyah in today’s stage. Roma finished third but almost 10 minutes behind the 11-time champion.

And with that, Peterhansel is only down to Roma two minutes and 15 seconds in the overall standings. Al-Attiyah is also not out of the battle yet after climbing to third overall, 46 minutes and one second off the pace.

“We got stuck atop a dune for about eight minutes towards the beginning of the stage, and in the second part of the special we lost some time due to a flat tire,” Roma said. “But that’s racing, it’s competition, it’s sport. It’s not over yet, we knew this week would be tough…and tomorrow will be another special [stage].”

Sergey Karyakin won today in the quads, which continues to be controlled by Ignacio Casale. The Chilean finished second to Karyakin and was able to put up a small increase for his overall lead, now at 24 minutes and 38 seconds over Sergio Lafuente.

As for the trucks, Andrey Karginov’s runner-up effort behind Czech winner Ales Loprais was enough to take more than five and a half minutes off of overall leader Gerard de Rooy. Going into Stage 11, the Dutchman’s lead is now down to seven minutes, 55 seconds over the Russian.

Cooper solidifies PWC GT presence with Callaway Corvette

Callaway, Cooper, Gill. Photo: PWC
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Pirelli World Challenge could use a “face” of the series from a driving standpoint, and American Michael Cooper is a good candidate to fill that role for 2018.

Cooper, 27, has won PWC Touring Car, GTS and, most recently the SprintX GT titles within the series and has quickly blossomed into one of the series’ top GT stars.

It’s been a rapid rise for the Syosset, N.Y. native, entering into a world filled with series stars and champions such as Johnny O’Connell, Patrick Long, Alvaro Parente and a host of others.

But under O’Connell’s tutelage, Cooper admirably filled the rather gaping shoes vacated by Andy Pilgrim at Cadillac Racing, steering the Cadillac ATS-V.R to multiple race wins in the last two years – including a sweep of this year’s season finale weekend at Sonoma.

Cooper and Jordan Taylor were the model of consistency in SprintX this year, winning once at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and surviving contact at Circuit of The Americas to take that title.

With Cadillac withdrawing its ATS-V.R program at the end of the year though, Cooper was left a free agent for 2018. Fortunately with one door closed another opened, in the form of the GM-blessed but full Callaway Competition USA effort with its Callaway Corvette C7 GT3-R that will come Stateside next year. Cooper and Daniel Keilwitz will be in the team’s two cars for the full season; the car was fully unveiled last week at the PRI Show in Indianapolis.

The Callaway is a proven commodity in Europe but couldn’t run in the U.S. unless the path was cleared by one of GM’s factory programs to end a direct, potential head-to-head competition.

Moving from the Cadillac to the Callaway Corvette should be a natural transition, Cooper said last week.

“It worked out incredibly well that GM decided to allow Calloway to run the car in the United States and it created an opportunity for me that wouldn’t have been there otherwise,” he told NBC Sports. “I talked to a lot of other GT teams and at the end of the day, I felt like this was the best direction for me to be competitive next year and to also continue furthering my career with General Motors.”

Indeed Cooper has graduated from the Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R in GTS to the Cadillac and now to the Callaway Corvette. Cooper hailed the Cadillac team for what they did for his career growth.

“Working with Cadillac Racing has been instrumental in developing my abilities both on and off the track,” he said. “So I’m definitely a much more well-rounded driver now and have a lot of experience in the World Challenge GT field, so I kind of know what to expect going into that first race and going into that first corner in St. Pete.”

As noted, the car’s success in Europe means it’s a well-oiled machine by the time Reeves Callaway has worked with PWC to bring it Stateside next year. And as Cooper explained, discussions had been underway for a bit of time to ensure his presence in this car and team.

“I think the car is going to be extremely capable. It’s already won championships and races in Europe. I think, in bringing it over here, we’re going to hit the ground running straight away,” he said.

“Calloway had wanted me to come drive for them in July or August. We always kept in touch since then, and there was a lot of work trying to put together a program before they decided that they were going to do a fully fledged factory program. So once they made that decision, I think the pieces were kind of in place already, and the conversations had been had to be able to say ‘You’re going to be our guy.’”

December is late for IMSA programs to get finalized, but it’s relatively early for PWC, with the season not starting until mid-March in St. Petersburg. An extensive testing program should follow, as Callaway establishes its U.S. base and infrastructure.

“It’s definitely early for a Pirelli World Challenge program to be announced in December when we start racing in March. So that’s very good,” he said. “But, the team has a lot of work ahead of them in terms of getting infrastructure set up here in the United States, because a lot of their racing program has been in Europe. So, there will be a testing program, but they have to get the infrastructure in place first. But, we’ll be well prepared for St. Pete, I’m certain of it.

“Last year was the first year when I could sit back, kick my feet up, and know what I was doing next year. So, to be able to have everything done and be able to announce it this early on makes my life less stressful and now I can just focus on preparing myself and my team for next year.”