Dakar: Matthias Walkner takes first career stage win in bikes (VIDEO)

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Austrian rider and Dakar Rally rookie Matthias Walkner scored a surprise first win in Stage 3 on Tuesday by 40 seconds over defending champion and fellow KTM rider Marc Coma.

Following Monday’s Stage 2, which was the longest stage of the entire rally and judged as exceptionally difficult, Dakar officials decided to shorten Tuesday’s run and halt a number of riders that had not yet reached the third checkpoint.

For these riders, officials applied a fixed time, with the slowest time recorded between CP3 and the finish of the special used as a reference. Since this time represented 51 percent of the total time that these riders took, they had 51 percent of their time between the start and CP3 added to give them their overall stage times.

Walkner reached the second checkpoint within one minute of the overall bike class leader, Honda’s Joan Barreda, before out-hustling both Coma and Joan Barreda (third place on Tuesday, +1:53) to the finish.

“I already had a good feeling when I got to the finish because I knew I had a good day,” Walkner said in a KTM release. “But at the end, I was a bit tired and wasn’t concentrating so well and I made some small mistakes. It is an amazing feeling to win the stage and for sure, I didn’t expect this.

“It will be difficult to open the piste tomorrow. Now for the rest of the rally, I just want to enjoy every kilometer, to learn and to stay focused on the road book so I don’t make many mistakes.”

As for Coma, he was unable to make up ground partly due to the relatively short distance of the stage. However, with the first trip into Chile’s Atacama Desert coming in Wednesday’s Stage 4, he expects things to shift in his favor.

“Tomorrow, the skyline of the rally completely changes,” said Coma, who peeled one minute off Barreda’s overall lead and sits fourth behind “Bang Bang,” Paulo Goncalves (+5:33), and Walkner (+10:33).

“We arrive in the open desert and the sand dunes, where I feel more comfortable. Everything is possible.”

While perhaps not as vicious as Monday’s outing, Tuesday’s stage still required a lot of precision as Barreda noted.

“It was a stage where you really had to have your wits about you,” he said in a Honda statement. “[Coma] could have made up a lot of time, if I had made any navigational errors. The final part was full of stones, broken track, and many traps, so you had to be really careful with both the riding and the navigation.

“I kept up a good pace, and I felt pretty good, but I thought it was better not to take any risks in the final section.”

Toby Price, another KTM rider, continued his solid early form with a fourth-place finish on Tuesday, and Goncalves rounded out the Top-5 riders.

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2015 Dakar Rally continues Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET. For a full Dakar TV schedule, CLICK HERE.

2015 Dakar Rally – Overall Standings, Motorcycles
(After Stage 3 – San Juan to Chilecito)

1. 2-Joan Barreda (Honda), 9hrs, 43mins, 5secs
2. 7-Paulo Goncalves (Honda), +5mins, 33secs
3. 27-Matthias Walkner (KTM), +10mins, 33secs
4. 1-Marc Coma (KTM), +10mins, 50secs
5. 11-Ruben Faria (KTM), +12mins, 10secs
6. 26-Toby Price (KTM), +12mins, 24secs
7. 4-Jordi Viladoms (KTM), +14mins, 7secs
8. 12-Jeremias Israel (Honda), +18mins, 33secs
9. 5-Helder Rodrigues (Honda), +18mins, 34secs
10. 10-Juan Pedrero (Yamaha), +23mins, 2secs

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

Indianapolis Motor Speedway fans
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
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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.