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

F1 tests: Mercedes innovates with wheel adjustment system

Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images
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MONTMELÓ, Spain — Veteran Kimi Raikkonen set the fastest time on the second day of Formula One preseason testing on Thursday, but Mercedes still garnered more attention by introducing an innovative wheel adjustment system.

On-board footage showed defending champion Lewis Hamilton pulling the steering wheel back and forth on the front straight to apparently change the angle of the front wheels on his Mercedes car.

The team stayed tight-lipped about the car’s new feature but guaranteed it was “safe” and “legal.”

“I probably won’t shed a great deal more light than what you saw on the TV but yeah we have a system in the car, it’s a novel idea,” team technical director James Allison told F1 TV. ”We’ve got a name for it, it’s called DAS, if you’re interested, and it just introduces an extra dimension for the steering, for the driver, which we hope will be useful during the year. But precisely how we use it and why we use it, that’s something we will keep to ourselves.”

Allison said governing body FIA knew in advance that the team was introducing the new system.

“It’s something we’ve been talking to them (about) for some time,” he said. “The rules are pretty clear about what’s permitted on steering systems and we’re pretty confident that it matches those requirements. I’m pleased we got it on the car, it seems to be useful, and we’ll see over the coming days how it benefits us.”

Hamilton said he was still trying to get used to the system, but praised the team for coming up with the innovation.

“I’ve only had one morning on (it, so) I don’t really have a lot to talk about with it. We’re trying to get on top of it, understand it, but safety-wise no problem today and the FIA are OK with the project.

“For me it’s really encouraging to see that my team is continuing to innovate and stay ahead of the game, and I think that’s down to the great minds in the team and so hopefully that’ll work to our benefit.”

Hamilton led the time charts on Wednesday but was only ninth-fastest on Thursday.

MORE: Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas fastest in Day 1 of F1 practice
MORE: Sergio Perez fastest early on Day 2 of F1 Practice

The 40-year-old Raikkonen, who has a chance this season to break the record for most race starts in F1, was fastest with a time of 1 minute, 17.091 seconds in his Alfa Romea. He was 0.2 seconds quicker than Sergio Pérez with Racing Point. Daniel Ricciardo of Renault was third.

Raikkonen caused a red flag near the end of the afternoon session when his car stopped on the track with an apparent mechanical issue. The Finnish driver had spun earlier in the session, as did Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes, Romain Grosjean of Haas and Pierre Gasly of Alpha Tauri, formerly known as Toro Rosso.

Grosjean had the most laps among the 13 drivers who went to the track on Thursday, with 158.

Bottas was the slowest driver of the day, while Sebastian Vettel was sixth-fastest with Ferrari.

Pérez had set the quickest time in the morning session. The Mexican driver had been third fastest on Wednesday, behind Hamilton and Bottas.

Drivers will be back on the track on Friday to close out the first week of testing. Teams will have another three days to test next week.

Preseason testing has been reduced from eight to six days to help compensate for the record 22 races on the calendar, including a new Vietnam Grand Prix and the return of the Dutch GP. Midseason testing also has been eliminated.

The season opens on March 15 at the Australian GP.

The Barcelona-Catalunya track will host the Spanish GP on May 10.