Dakar: Sainz strong in Stage 4 victory, takes lead in cars (VIDEO)

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Carlos Sainz -“El Matador” – turned in a grande performance during the fourth stage of the 2014 Dakar Rally on Wednesday between San Juan and Chilecito, Argentina.

Sainz (pictured), a two-time World Rally Champion, has secured the overall lead in the car category after finishing more than six minutes ahead of Stephane Peterhansel, who shook off a hellish Stage 3 yesterday to claim runner-up honors.

After his 26th career Dakar stage win, Sainz now finds himself up by 2:06 in the overall standings over Nani Roma, who lost the top spot after finishing fifth in the stage behind Sainz, Peterhansel, Nasser Al-Attiyah, and Federico Villagra.

“At the beginning, we had to drive in the dust, but little by little we managed to overtake several cars,” Sainz said of his Wednesday. “We also got a bit lucky when, about 10 kilometers before the finish, our power steering broke down in a narrow spot amid all the vegetation, but we easily made it to the finish all the same.

“In the second part, there was a waypoint where we went right, but after a while we realized it had to be on the other side, so we headed left and we found it. No big deal, I think everyone made the same mistake.”

Juan Pedrero notched his first-ever Dakar stage win in the bike category, besting runner-up Francisco Lopez by 29 seconds and third-place finisher Marc Coma by over three minutes.

However, Coma chopped into the overall lead held by Joan Barreda, who finished sixth today. What was yesterday a 13-minute-plus edge for Barreda over Cyril Despres is now a smaller lead of 3:10 over Coma, and Lopez isn’t far behind either at just 5:12 off the pace.

As for Despres, he tumbled to sixth in the overall standings after his Yamaha failed on him late in the stage. The defending Dakar bike champ is now more than 41 minutes behind, but vows to continue the fight.

“We’ve just finished stage 4 out of 13,” he said. “The day I give up is the day I should pack up and go home.”

Ignacio Casale re-took control of the quad category with a Stage 4 win, dusting Sebastian Husseini by 12:05. In the overall standings, he now holds an advantage of 9:35 over Rafal Sonik, who finished fourth.

Finally, truck driver Gerard de Rooy earned a Stage 4 win over Andrey Karginov by 1:31. The victory extends his overall lead in the trucks to just over 36 minutes.

“In the second part, we overtook Karginov, who had stopped on the left side of the course with a flat tire,” said De Rooy. “We made a small navigation mistake towards the end, when everyone went right but you actually had to go left, but it was no big deal.

“The only mishap was when I bumped my left wrist against the steering wheel, but it’s nothing to be worried about – some ice, a cool beer and everything will be okay in time for tomorrow.”

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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