Dakar: Joan Barreda leads 1-2 finish for Honda, takes overall bike lead (VIDEO)

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Joan “Bang Bang” Barreda has once again announced himself as a contender in the Dakar Rally.

Barreda, who won five stages in the 2014 event, charged to the top of the overall leaderboard in the bikes with a Stage 2 win on Monday.

The Spaniard conquered the long route from Villa Carlos Paz to San Juan, Argentina, out-hustling fellow Honda rider Paulo Goncalves by more than six minutes.

As a result, Barreda now assumes the overall edge over Goncalves by 4 minutes, 37 seconds.

“In the end, we set off with a game-plan to not make any mistakes and arrive safely at the finish-line,” Barreda said in a Honda release. “The result has been amazing. In the first part, [Stage 1 winner Sam] Sunderland and [defending Dakar champ Marc] Coma pushed really hard and I overtook Paulo to try and stop them running away with the stage.

“In the end, it was more about survival than anything else. We had to measure the pace and keep focused on the navigation as there were some extremely tricky spots, plus another stretch towards the end, that really put a strain on the body.”

Speaking of Sunderland and Coma, both KTM factory riders ran into problems on Monday.

Sunderland had started the Dakar as good as hoped for on Sunday with a victory, but a navigational error at 70 kilometers to go caused him to lose more than two hours Monday as he tried to return to the proper route.

He did, but the damage was done: A 72nd-place stage finish and a massive tumble to 67th in the overall.

Coma avoided a calamity of that magnitude, but perhaps not by much. Tire problems in the final stretch of terrain forced him to slow down and settle for an 8th-place stage finish at 12 and a half minutes behind Barreda, his title rival from one year ago.

Said Coma in a KTM release: “The (tire) mousse disintegrated in the last 60 kilometers. A little earlier, I knew it was happening. I had to slow down a lot. For the last 60 kilometers, I could not go faster than 40 km/h.

“But after having reached the finish, I consider myself lucky because we could have lost much more time. Obviously it’s not the result we wanted, but it is still salvageable.”

Their fellow KTM factory riders, Ruben Faria and Jordi Viladoms, picked up third and fourth-place finishes respectively. Two more KTM-supported riders also turned in nice runs: Australia’s Toby Price in fifth and Austria’s Matthias Walkner in sixth.

NBCSN’s daily coverage of the Dakar Rally is underway. For a full Dakar TV schedule, CLICK HERE.

2015 Dakar Rally – Overall Standings, Motorcycles
(After Stage Two – Villa Carlos Paz to San Juan)

1. Joan Barreda (Honda), 7 hours, 6 minutes, 44 seconds
2. Paulo Goncalves (Honda), + 4:37
3. Ruben Faria (KTM), + 10:37
4. Jordi Viladoms (KTM), + 11:24
5. Toby Price (KTM), + 11:32
6. Marc Coma (KTM), + 12:03
7. Matthias Walkner (KTM), + 12:26
8. Helder Rodrigues (Honda), + 13:26
9. Jeremias Israel (Honda), + 16:24
10. Juan Pedrero (Yamaha), + 19:34

Ben Hanley relieved to make Indy 500 debut

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Qualifying for the Indy 500 is never an easy task, especially for a new driver and team, and with 36 cars vying for 33 starting positions last weekend, 34-year-old rookie Ben Hanley knew there was a chance he and his DragonSpeed team would not make the show.

“I wouldn’t say we were very confident, but we wanted to [make the field],” Hanley told NBC Sports. “The biggest thing we were trying to achieve was to not be on track on Sunday in the shootout because it only takes one mistake or one little issue and that’s it, you’re not in the race.”

But Hanley would not have to worry about being bumped from the field. He qualified 27th after making three attempts on Day 1, which was enough to lock the No. 81 team into the show. Not too shabby for a driver and team making only their third NTT IndyCar Series start.

THE 103RD INDIANAPOLIS 500: Click here for how to watch, full daily schedules

“That last run everything just came together,” Hanley said. “We trimmed out a little bit more and found a good balance of trim and grip over four [qualifying] laps and it was enough to get us through.

“It was a huge relief to get through in P27. A massive achievement for everybody involved.”

Indeed it was a massive achievement, as DragonSpeed is one of the smallest teams in the garage, with no corporate sponsors and a tiny team of around 20 personnel. Many of those were picked up by the team just a week before qualifying, when members of the team’s regular crew were denied entry into the United States due to visa issues after leaving a sports car race in Italy.

“It was all down to the team organizing some people who were in and around Indianapolis who weren’t needed for the race weekend,” Hanley said. “Obviously, I don’t think many people are going to refuse the chance to work on a car that’s trying to qualify for the 500.”

Though the team made its first Indy 500 on Day 1 of qualifying, the DragonSpeed team did not spend Saturday night out late celebrating. Instead, Hanley said the extra time was spent preparing for the race.

“We went straight on to race prep then for the car, so Sunday was a good day for the guys to take time to prep the car into the race spec and get everything sorted out in a nice, organized manner.”

Following the Indy 500, DragonSpeed will run two other races this season at Road America and Mid-Ohio. The team is hopeful that a good run at Indy will result in an opportunity to run a bigger schedule next season and attract sponsors.

Hanley stated that though he’s happy to have made the Indy 500 starting grid for the first time in his career, the magnitude of his feat hasn’t hit him yet.

“It hasn’t really soaked in yet,” he said. “I think it will soak in on Sunday when we roll out to the grid.

“It was such a huge relief to not be involved in Bump Day. Even just watching [Bump Day] it was intense, especially with the weather. I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like to be involved in that.”

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