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.”

Robert Wickens in the Indy 500? Bryan Herta making plans to field a car for next year

Robert Wickens Indy 500
Brett Farmer/LAT Images/IMSA
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Bryan Herta wants to enter Robert Wickens in the Indy 500 as early as 2024 – a year longer than preferred as work continues on the hand controls needed for the paralyzed driver.

Wickens suffered a spinal cord injury in a crash at Pocono Raceway in his 2018 IndyCar rookie season. He’s worked as a driver coach for the Arrow McLaren IndyCar team since, but last year with Bryan Herta Autosport and Hyundai returned to racing in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.

The 33-year-old Canadian won a pair of races (including the season opener at Daytona) driving a Hyundai Elantra N-TCR that is fitted for Wickens to race strictly through hand controls. Herta said Thursday that perfecting that technology for an Indy car in the biggest race in the world has slowed the project he’s determined to do with Wickens.

‘I’M AS HUNGRY AS EVER’: Robert Wickens’ return to racing

“I’d love to take Robbie back to Indy because I know he could do that, and I think that would be a next step for him in his journey,” Herta told The Associated Press. “We’ve spent a lot of time looking at the logistical side of things, hand controls, and I think we have solutions for that.”

Herta said Honda has been supportive of the process, which Herta called “one of the most important things we’ve done in racing” last year.

“We actually looked at doing it this year, but the logistics of it, the timing, it just wasn’t enough,” Herta said. “That’s not something you can rush. There’s some things that we have to work very closely with IndyCar on, and things we just have to get right. It’s a process, but I can see a path to it.”

Wickens, when told his boss was openly discussing the Indy 500, grinned widely. Herta as a team owner won the Indianapolis 500 with Dan Wheldon and Alexander Rossi.

“That’d be fun,” he said of running the Indy 500.

But like Herta, Wickens said the effort has to be both done correctly and be competitive.

“We’d like to do it right. If we started right now, can we get a car ready for the open test in April? Probably,” Wickens told The AP. “But I don’t know where the systems would be and I want to get on proper simulators to make sure its correct.

“We all want to do a proper, professional effort,” he added. “I don’t want to do it for a marketing campaign. I want to do it for a chance to win.”

Wickens in 2021 did a demonstration in Canada that marketed advancements for paralyzed drivers and gave him a chance to again drive. His entire life had been upended 14 races into his rookie IndyCar season, just three months after winning top rookie honors at the Indianapolis 500.

Wickens has since married, returned to racing last year and welcomed the birth of his first child, an son named Wesley whom is infatuated with both race cars and the trip to Disney he took this week during the off days at Daytona International Speedway.

Wickens, who uses a wheelchair but can stand with some support, marks a full year back racing on Friday in the season-opening IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race. Despite success last season, Herta made changes to his lineups and Wickens this year will be teamed with Harry Gottsacker.