Defending Dakar champ Roma, Al-Attiyah lead march of the Minis

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Mini’s sweep of the Dakar Rally last season wasn’t a smooth one.

Late team orders issued to freeze drivers Nani Roma (pictured, right), Stephane Peterhansel, and Nasser Al-Attiyah (pictured, left) in their 1-2-3 position sparked controversy.

Roma himself called the decision “disrespectful” to 11-time Dakar champ Peterhansel, and Dakar race director Etienne Lavigne appeared to flat-out condemn it – declaring that “fighting without risk is triumph without glory.”

But the orders ultimately won out in the end, and Roma, Peterhansel, and Al-Attiyah finished the rally in that 1-2-3 order. For the 2015 Dakar, one-third of that podium is gone for Mini as Peterhansel has joined up with Peugeot in its return to the event after a 25-year absence.

However, Roma, a two-time champion of the Dakar, and Al-Attiyah, the 2011 victor, still remain. And they’re still threats to go to the top once again.

“The field for this edition has evolved a lot,” said Roma, who will drive the No. 300 Mini All4 Racing. “It is no doubt very competitive. I think that the Toyotas have improved and Giniel [De Villiers] will be very dangerous. It is very good that a brand with the notoriety of Peugeot has returned. It will be a very good battle. But I think that the real rival on the Dakar, above else, is oneself. You have to be calm when making choices, one after the other.”

As for Al-Attiyah, who’s also proven himself out of the car as a 2012 Olympic bronze medalist in skeet shooting, he’s hoping to go two spots better this time around.

“The 2014 Dakar remains, of course, a disappointment, but what can you do after receiving a one-hour penalty [in Stage 5],” he said. “Today, I am in a better position and the objective is to win. I am also thrilled to be with Mathieu Baumel, my new co-driver. We get on fabulously and he is top notch. Now, we have to win.”

Also being counted on to do well for Mini is Argentina’s Orlando Terranova, who should have a sizable local following behind him. He’ll be one of Roma’s teammates on the Monster Energy Rally Raid team (the other being Krzysztof Holowczyc of Poland), and he’s coming off back-to-back fifth-place efforts in the Dakar.

Terranova is aiming for the podium following Mini’s work on making its cars lighter and more reliable. He’ll also have a new co-driver on board with him as well in Ronnie Graue.

“The engineers and staff at Mini have worked a lot on the weight, the suspension and aerodynamics, by favoring the overall reliability of the car,” Terranova said. “There are not any major technical evolutions but certain details have been improved.

“I changed co-drivers because I was looking for someone who speaks Spanish. The tests with Ronnie were very conclusive. The objective will be to do better than last year. To finish on the podium will be a fantastic result.”

Dean Wilson out for rest of Supercross season

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“Such a massive gut punch on Saturday,” Dean Wilson wrote on Instagram on Tuesday. “Just as I was gaining good momentum riding well, feeling good and chasing my first win things turned in the blink of an eye.”

With that post, Wilson announced that he will be out for the remainder of the Supercross season, which includes races at East Rutherford, N.J. and Las Vegas, Nev. An MRI earlier in the week revealed a shoulder injury. He also sustained damage to his kidney in a Lap 8 accident while he was running in the top 10.

Wilson’s injuries will not require surgery.

Wilson’s season began with a lot of promise. Earning the holeshot in the season-opening race at Anaheim, Wilson led for a time before narrowly missing the podium in fourth.

Two weeks later, Wilson finished fifth overall in the Triple Crown event of Anaheim II. Those are his only top-fives of the season.

“The tough part of this is I have been trying so hard this year to be back where I need to be trying to get a job for next year,” Wilson continued.

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Such a massive gut punch on Saturday. Just as I was gaining good momentum riding well, feeling good and chasing my first win things turned in the blink of an eye. Started off Denver topping free practice then went on to qualify P1 in qualifier 1. Qualifier 2 didn’t get the cleanest laps but ended with a 4th. On to the main event I was running around 7th on lap 7 moving forward and as I came around for the rhythm section I tripled in and something freak happened causing the bike to nose dive after I tripled in and pile driving me into the ground. The tough part of this is I have been trying so hard this year to be back where I need to be trying to get a job for next year. It’s tough just hoping to have a ride each year. 2nd part is people saying “wilson’s hurt again, big surprise there” when it was something that wasn’t my fault. It’s a tough pill To swallow.. I injured my shoulder and got a contusion on my kidneys. Got MRI and good news is I dodged a bullet on my shoulder and I am just going to give it a few weeks of rest and therapy and see where we are at. Huge disappointment to end my SX season like this. Thanks to my whole team for everything and everybody checking in on me. I really appreciate it. I will be back.

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Next Race: East Rutherford April. 27, on NBCSN and on NBC Sports Gold

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