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saw Stephane Peterhansel continue his final assault on overall leader Nani Roma, while “El Matador” Carlos Sainz has withdrawn from the Dakar.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

Schmidt Peterson aiming high with Hinchcliffe, Wickens

Photo: IndyCar
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The new Schmidt Peterson Motorsports duo of James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens expressed a high amount of confidence during Wednesday’s confirmation of Hinchcliffe’s return and Wickens’ signing, as the pair looks to return the Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson co-owned team to prominent status within the Verizon IndyCar Series.

“We’re hoping to give Toronto and Ontario and Canadian sports fans in general something to cheer about over the next season,” Hinchcliffe quipped during a teleconference on Wednesday.

Granted, there are likely to be several challenges to overcome, notably for Wickens, who returns to single-seater competition for the first time since 2011, when he was a champion of the Formula Renault 3.5 series and served as test driver for the now defunct Manor Racing (then known as Marussia Virgin Racing).

Having spent every year since then in DTM, where he won a total of six races and finished as high as fourth in the championship (2016), Wickens knows returning to open wheel competition will be an adjustment. However, he explained that the history of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, specifically its Indy Lights history, speaks to their ability to help a driver adapt, and he rates the program they’re putting together very highly.

“I think Schmidt Peterson Motorsports have a fantastic driver development program. They showed that in their multiple Indy Lights championships along the way. I think we will have a strong program in place. I have a feeling that the simulator will be my new best friend,” Wickens said when asked about getting reacquainted with an open-wheel car.

Of course, having an experienced teammate like Hinchcliffe to lean on will undoubtedly help the transition, something Wickens readily admitted.

“I’m very fortunate that I have James as my teammate because he’s so experienced, I can learn off him. Because we already have such a good off-track relationship, I feel like you can just take his word, trust him, kind of move forward with it,” he revealed.

They’ve been teammates before, both in karting where they first met in 2001, and then in the now-defunct A1 Grand Prix series in 2007-2008, a series that pitted nations against each other in spec open-wheel cars. Funnily, that A1GP type of vibe returns as Schmidt Peterson Motorsports now has that with its “Team Canada” mantra while all four of Andretti Autosport’s full-season drivers are American.

For Hinchcliffe, Wickens’ background, even if it hasn’t been in the single-seater realm since 2011, was a big selling point in adding him to the team.

“In Robby, we have a proven winner at a very high level. The level of technical expertise that he comes with from his time in DTM is very impressive,” he said of Wickens’ technical background.

Hinchcliffe added that Wickens’ ability to analyze the car and its setup was evidenced in two outings: one at Sebing International Raceway in March, in part of a “ride swap” between the two longtime friends, and a second at Road America, when he subbed on Friday practice for Mikhail Aleshin.

Wickens sampled Hinchcliffe’s No. 5 Arrow Electronics Honda earlier this year. Photo: IndyCar

Hinchcliffe revealed that Wickens’ feedback to the team and his ability to quickly adapt to the chassis took everyone somewhat by surprise.

“We did our ride swap. He had two hours in the car, hardly anything even resembling a test day, and his performance was pretty impressive. No doubt the time in Road America helped because that really gave us a better sense of his technical feedback, integrated with the team a little bit more. Everybody was happy to work with him on that day,” said Hinchcliffe.

Further still, Hinchcliffe is firm in his belief that the 2018 aero kit and its reduction in aerodynamic downforce will fall right into Wickens’ wheelhouse, based on Hinchcliffe’s own take after sampling Wickens’ DTM Mercedes earlier this year.

“In all honesty, I was saying earlier today, the 2018 car is probably better suited for him than the 2017 car because of the experience he’s had the last handful of series,” Hinchcliffe asserted.

“The (aero kit) was such high downforce, it would be a big change coming out of DTM. But with the loss of downforce that we’ve seen, the car is moving around a little bit more, brake zones, things like that, it won’t be as big a transition I think. Just based on the experience that I got in our ride swap, I think he’s going to adapt very quickly, be comfortable very quickly, and as a result be competitive very quickly. So it’s going to be exciting.”

As for expectations heading into next year, team co-owner Schmidt did not mince words and expects the team’s performance to resemble what they did in 2012, 2013, and 2014, when they won a total of four races (with driver Simon Pagenaud) and finished in the top five in the championship each year.

“We had a stint in ’12, ’13, ’14 where we finished fifth in the points (or better. I think we want to get back to that level of competition,” Schmidt added. “We felt like we were missing things in having two cars with equal funding and equal drivers and equal capabilities. We think this gets back there.”

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