Dakar: After Stage 1 penalty, Nasser Al-Attiyah strikes back (VIDEO)

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Nasser Al-Attiyah finished first in Sunday’s opening stage of the 2015 Dakar Rally, only to be penalized two minutes for speeding in a restricted section of the course.

In Monday’s Stage 2 from Villa Carlos Paz to San Juan, Argentina – the longest stage of the entire event – the Mini driver from Qatar issued an emphatic response.

Al-Attiyah, seeking a second Dakar overall win, took the 518km stage by a margin of eight-and-a-half minutes over Toyota’s South African ace, Giniel de Villiers. And just like that, the 2011 champ has roared back to the overall lead in the marquee car category.

“We won the stage,” Al-Attiyah said. “This was a big thing today. This is the key of this Dakar. Now we can go calmly until the rest day. For the marathon [stage] day, we can go really easily, but we will try every day to be like this. It was a plan today because we studied the stage very well: Me and [co-driver] Matthieu Baumel went to sleep yesterday at 1:30. We made a very good job of it.

“OK, I know it’s hard. I was nearly sleeping in the car! But this is a good point and we need to work every day and take it day by day. I don’t know about victory, but today we tried to make a good job of it. There’s still a long way, still a long way.”

De Villiers’ Toyota teammate, Bernhard Ten Brinke, was third on Monday at just over 10 minutes behind Al-Attiyah.

Following Al-Attiyah’s penalty on Sunday, Orlando Terranova of Argentina assumed the Dakar lead and appeared to be on his way to victory on Monday. But in the final kilometers, “Orly” crashed and lost more than 20 minutes in the process. As a result, he’s now fallen from the lead to 10th in the overall standings.

“It was ten kilometers before the end,” Terranova said of his wild ride. “We came at it quite gently because we had some problem with the cooling temperature. But then in one moment, in a ditch, the car rolled four times. But we’re ok, no problems.

“We lost a lot of time. We had to put the car back on its wheels and change two tires. The fuel pump was broken, so we lost a lot of minutes, too much. But we’re still in the race.”

Nani Roma, the reigning Dakar champion who saw his hopes of another title end prematurely on Sunday, was unable to bounce back in Stage 2. He finished 22nd in the stage at more than one hour off the pace.

Also suffering for a second consecutive day were the Peugeot boys – in particular, its 11-time Dakar winner, Stephane Peterhansel, who finished 27th on Monday. The group was led again by Carlos Sainz in eighth.

NBCSN begins its daily coverage of the Dakar today at 4:30 p.m. ET. For a full TV schedule of the event, CLICK HERE.

2015 Dakar Rally – Overall Standings, Cars
(After Stage 2 – Villa Carlos Paz to San Juan)
1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (Mini), 6 hours, 19 minutes, 40 seconds
2. Giniel de Villiers (Toyota), + 7:42
3. Bernhard Ten Brinke (Toyota), + 9:42
4. Krzysztof Holowczyc (Mini), + 10:28
5. Vladimir Vasilyev (Mini), + 17:23
6. Erik Van Loon (Mini), + 20:04
7. Carlos Sainz (Peugeot), + 20:32
8. Yazeed Alrajhi (Toyota), + 21:34
9. Carlos Sousa (Mitsubishi), + 22:04
10. Orlando Terranova (Mini), + 22:23

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.