Dakar: One day after team orders, Peterhansel takes control in Stage 12 (VIDEO)

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Problems for Nani Roma opened the door for Stephane Peterhansel to take the overall car lead in Stage 12 of the Dakar Rally one day after his Mini team had told him to end his fight against the Spaniard.

In an attempt to pull off a podium sweep in the category, Mini told its drivers yesterday to hold position with Roma in first, Peterhansel in second and Nasser Al-Attiyah in third. But today, Roma suffered a tire puncture early on and later on got briefly stuck in a dune on the route to La Serena, Chile.

Now, after a bizarre afternoon, Peterhansel holds a 26-second overall lead over Roma with the final stage coming tomorrow.

“Nasser started behind me and after one hundred kilometers, he was close to me, so I stopped and he passed and just afterwards, we overtook Nani – I think he had a puncture because he was really slow,” Peterhansel said.

“At the end, I stopped on the dunes to show him that if he wanted to he could go past, but he didn’t want to open the way on the dunes. So I opened on the dunes and finished very calmly.”

However, Peterhansel believes that Mini’s team orders remain in play even with the shuffling of positions, telling Agence France-Presse that “the instructions will perhaps be reissued tonight and we will listen to them.”

Al-Attiyah finished second behind Peterhansel today by three minutes, 38 seconds to keep grip on the final podium spot as the end of the rally draws near.

In the bikes, 2013 class champ Cyril Despres remained white-hot in this second week of racing, claiming the stage win by two minutes, 17 seconds over current overall leader Marc Coma.

Barring a massive breakdown, Coma has a clean shot to the championship tomorrow after his closest rival, Joan Barreda, tumbled from the runner-up position following a dreadful day.

Barreda’s Honda team reports that he crashed at the 264-kilometer mark and the Dakar website said that following electrical problems emerging on his bike, he was forced to stop several times after that point and finished the special on foot – almost two-and-a-half hours behind Despres.

With that, Barreda has lost out on a podium finish, tumbling to seventh in the overall. Meanwhile, Jorge Viladoms now leads a tight battle for P2 behind Coma; he is almost two hours off Coma’s pace, but is up just 10 minutes, 27 seconds on third-place Olivier Pain, while Despres, in fourth, only sits an additional 3 minutes, 45 seconds off of Pain.

It also appears smooth sailing for Chile’s own Ignacio Casale, who looks ready to claim the big trophy in the quads. Casale earned the win today by five minutes, five seconds over Sebastian Husseini, and now leads overall over Rafal Sonik by a margin of 1 hour, 23 minutes, 42 seconds.

In the trucks, a close finish awaits for Andrey Karginov and Gerard de Rooy, who erased 31 seconds from his deficit during his win today over the Russian. Still, Karginov holds the top spot overall over de Rooy by 7 minutes, 25 seconds.

Only tomorrow’s 157-kilometer route from La Serena to Valparaiso remains left to conquer.

Teammates James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens earn top-fives at Barber

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For the first time this season, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammates James Hinchcilffe and Robert Wickens earned top-five finishes in the same race at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.

Hinchcliffe finished third in the Grand Prix of Alabama; Wickens was one spot behind in fourth.

Wickens had one previous podium at Phoenix with his second-place finish. Hinchcliffe’s best result was a fourth in the season-opener in St Petersburg, Fla., so this marked his first podium of the year.

Both drivers needed a little help from the rain.

As precipitation began to fall in the closing stages of the race, Hinchliffe asked his team on a couple of occasions if it was wet enough to pit for rain tires. He was told twice to stay out and was then called into to the pits at the optimal time.

“Solid weekend for us after coming here before – not a great test,” Hinchcliffe said. “Two cars in the top 10 qualifying; two cars, top five in the race. Pretty proud of these boys, everybody on the Arrow car.”

The rain helped Wickens’ race strategy come together.

“I was having to save a lot of fuel in that second stint,” Wickens said. “So once (Scott) Dixon starting getting close to me I was thinking ‘Oh God, I’m going to actually have to give this one up.’ And then the rain came, so the fuel mileage happened naturally. So, yeah, it saved us a bit.”

And while both were pleased with their top-five finishes, drivers are rarely satisfied unless they are standing on the top step of the podium.

Wickens’ top-five finish was hard-fought. After winning the pole at St Petersburg and starting sixth at Phoenix, he failed to advance to the Fast 6 in back-to-back races at Long Beach and Barber – qualifying 10th both times.

“I was a little gutted that we came out in a big bunch of traffic,” Wickens continued. “It made the race fun, but a little frustrating as well because of people off sequence and whatnot. We lost a lot of track position there. Both of us could have been fighting for higher steps on the podium, but we need to do a little better job in qualifying. “