Dakar: In face of tragedy, Duclos wins in Stage 6 (VIDEO)

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Forging ahead after the heart-breaking deaths of competitor Eric Palante and two others on Thursday, the 2014 Dakar Rally hit its sixth stage with a run from Tucuman to Salta, Argentina.

Motorcyclist Alain Duclos (pictured) ended an eight-year stage win drought in the Dakar, out-hustling overall category leader Marc Coma by a margin of 1:15. Duclos now sits third big-picture wise, one hour back of Coma, who holds a 42:17 lead over second-place Joan Barreda (fourth on Friday).

“Today, it was my type of terrain,” Duclos said after his run. “We’ve got over the worst over the last few days and the rest day has arrived at the right time – it couldn’t be better timed.”

Car racer Stephane Peterhansel bolstered his bid for a 12th Dakar championship with the 63rd stage win of his career in the famous rally. He is now tied with seven-time Dakar truck champ Vladimir Chagin for the most Dakar stage wins across all categories.

Following today’s events, Peterhansel is now third in the overall car standings and is less than three minutes behind second-place Orlando Terranova, who himself is off the pace of leader Nani Roma by half an hour.

“Today, it was a really nice stage,” said Peterhansel. “The first part was like a [World Rally Championship] track, but in very nice landscape. It was close to the National Park and was really beautiful. On the second, there was a little bit more vegetation, but also like a [WRC track], so today, navigation was really easy.”

The battle for quad supremacy between Rafal Sonik, Sergio Lafuente, and Ignacio Casale continues, as they finished first, second and fourth respectively in Stage 6. Sonik was a big winner in particular, as he peeled off a whopping 54 minutes from Lafuente.

However, the Uruguayan remains on top of the overall by 22:18 over Sonik and 24:04 over third-place Casale.

While the cars, bikes and quads all had special stages of at least 400 kilometers, the trucks took on a shorter, 156-kilometer version Friday. Peter Versluis of the Netherlands earned top honors in the stage, while fellow Dutchman Gerard de Rooy still leads the overall by 29:05.

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”