After 25-year absence, Peugeot hoping for big return to the Dakar

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It’s a formidable triple threat that Peugeot has rolled out for what it hopes will be a successful return to the Dakar Rally.

The French manufacturer’s three main drivers in the 2015 Dakar – Stephane Peterhansel, Cyril Despres, and Carlos Sainz Sr. – have earned a combined 17 victories in the world’s greatest rally.

The lineup is worthy of Peugeot’s impressive, if somewhat brief, legacy in the race. From 1987-1990, it earned four consecutive wins.

It hasn’t competed in the Dakar since the end of that streak.

A quarter of a century has passed. These days, the Dakar is staged in South America. But armed with brand-new cars and tremendous talent behind the wheel, Peugeot is going all in.

“I have often competed against Peugeot Sport in the past and I have known for years just how passionate it is about motorsport,” Sainz said to AFP. “I also know that when they decide on a program, they put everything into it. I’m the same.

“Given how much I love the Dakar, it was too good a proposal to resist when Peugeot asked me to be part of its line-up for its comeback to this unique adventure.”

There are some questions, however.

The team insists its new two-wheel-drive 2008 DKR Dakar is quick. But will it be quick enough to mount a challenge to the Mini camp, led by defending champion Nani Roma and Nasser Al-Attiyah? And how reliable will it be in the grueling environment?

“With a new car like ours, it’s more likely for something to go wrong than it is with a car that is very well-developed, like the Mini,” Peterhansel said on RedBull.com a few days before Christmas. “So because of that you try to stay out of trouble and be as easy with the car as possible, to give yourself the best chance of finishing.

“You don’t have to be fastest on every stage to win Dakar. I’m not going to go flat-out right from the beginning.”

Nonetheless, Peterhansel may have some extra motivation this year.

He was part of the all-Mini podium in 2014, finishing behind Roma in second and ahead of Al-Attiyah. But in Stage 11, team orders were issued to protect the sweep, which frustrated him.

Peterhansel won the penultimate Stage 12 and took the overall lead. He figured the orders would be re-issued at that time, however, and in the final Stage 13, he ceded the point to Roma; Peterhansel ended up stopping near the end of the stage so the Minis could cross the finish line in formation.

As for Despres, he has a major task ahead of him. He’s a five-time Dakar winner in the motorcycle class, but he’ll be making his four-wheel debut in this year’s event.

It could be tough for him to hold his own with Sainz and Peterhansel. But to his credit, he is staying even-keeled.

“I’m working for a new team, with major resources and ambitions,” he said today during scrutineering at Tecnopolis in Buenos Aires. “But first and foremost, it’s a pleasure. I’ve had pressure since 2002, setting off alone on a bike in the cold, the rain, the night and sometimes under the shadow of doubt.

“This time, the focus will be on pleasure and on building something.”

Indianapolis Motor Speedway can have 10,000 fans for IndyCar races

Indianapolis Motor Speedway fans
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Indianapolis Motor Speedway will have crowds for its NTT IndyCar Series race weekend next month, the first time fans are allowed at the track this year.

The track announced Friday that up to 10,000 fans will be allowed in the grandstands daily from Oct. 1-4. The IndyCar Harvest GP race doubleheader will be held on the track’s road course Oct. 2-3.

IMS has played host to several events this year without fans, including the 104th Indianapolis 500 on Aug. 23 and a NASCAR-IndyCar weekend July 4-5 that included the Brickyard 400. Plans originally were made to have fans at the Indy 500 before reversing course a few weeks ahead of the race. In a letter last month, Roger Penske vowed that fans would return for the 2021 Indy 500.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS president Doug Boles said in a release. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

Fans will undergo temperature screenings upon entry and also be required to wear face coverings at all times on property. The track said each attendee will receive a mask and bottle of hand sanitizer.

The Friday, Oct. 2 race will be shown at 3:30 p.m. ET on USA, and NBC will broadcast the Saturday, Oct. 3 race at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Here’s the release from Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020 – For the first time in 2020, Indianapolis Motor Speedway will welcome fans to the Racing Capital of the World for the INDYCAR Harvest GP presented by GMR weekend. Up to 10,000 spectators can be in the grandstands each day of racing action Oct. 1-4, per approval from the Marion County Public Health Department.

Tickets are available now via IMS.com and will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis.

The massive facility, which holds more than 300,000 people, will provide two spectator zones with up to 5,000 fans in each. The zones will be located in Turns 1 and 4 of the oval, offering strong sightlines of the road course. Strict health and safety rules will be in place, including the following:

  • Face coverings must be worn throughout the property at all times;
  • All fans will receive temperature screenings before gate entry;
  • Grandstand seats will be marked for distancing;
  • Attendees must use pre-assigned gates and remain in their designated zones.

Global Medical Response, the world leader in compassionate, quality emergency medical and patient relocation services, will be the presenting sponsor of the penultimate weekend of INDYCAR racing this season.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

The plan, which includes each attendee receiving a mask and a bottle of hand sanitizer upon entering the track, was developed in consultation with state and local health officials.

This event weekend is highlighted by an NTT INDYCAR SERIES doubleheader, with races Friday, Oct. 2 and Saturday, Oct. 3. It will be the penultimate event of the series’ season as the field pursues the champion’s prestigious Astor Challenge Cup to be awarded Sunday, Oct. 25 at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

The INDYCAR Harvest GP will pay tribute to a storied IMS event, the Harvest Classic in September 1916. The Harvest Classic was the only racing event held outside of May at IMS from 1911 through 1993. The event featured three races, all won by legendary driver Johnny Aitken.

Fans also will see a host of facility improvements during the event weekend, including more than 30 new LED video boards, refreshed concession stands and restrooms, and 5G wireless connectivity throughout the facility.

The first race will air at 3:30 p.m. (ET) Friday, Oct. 2 on the USA Network. NBC will broadcast the second race at 2:30 p.m. (ET) Saturday, Oct. 3, with WTHR-13 airing the action live in Central Indiana.

Also racing that weekend will be the first pairing of two major sports car series — the Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli and its North American counterpart, GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS. Former Indianapolis 500 pole winner Ryan Briscoe is among the drivers in the Indianapolis 8 Hour event held Sunday, Oct. 4.

The event also will showcase drivers in SRO America’s Pirelli GT4 America, GT Sports Club America and the TC America series.

The full on-track schedule is available at IMS.com.