Dakar: Orlando Terranova continues Mini’s dominance; Robby Gordon finishes 15th

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Even without Nani Roma in contention, the Minis are still coming up big early on in the 2015 Dakar Rally.

Roma’s chances of defending his Dakar title were finished in Sunday’s opening stage, but fellow Mini drivers Nasser Al-Attiyah and Orlando Terranova have stepped up to keep the marque up front.

In Tuesday’s Stage 3 from San Juan to Chilecito, Argentina, Terranova made up for his Monday crash that cost him a possible win by taking the top spot at 1 minute, 54 seconds quicker than Toyota’s Giniel de Villiers.

“…We can’t think about strategy in a situation like this, but just have to push,” Terranova said in a release afterwards.

The stage win also propels Terranova from 10th to third in the overall standings, which are still being led by Al-Attiyah.

The Qatari followed up his Monday win with a fifth-place performance on Tuesday, and his overall edge over de Villiers currently sits at 5 minutes, 18 seconds.

“To open the stage is not easy because we needed to be careful with the navigation and because there were no bikes opening the stage,” Al-Attiyah said. “In some places, there was no road, but [co-driver] Matthieu [Baumel] did a really good job. We didn’t take any risks.

“Our plan was to lose a little bit for tomorrow because tomorrow, it is very important to start in at least the Top-5 and to push like [Monday], when we achieved a very good time.”

As for de Villiers, he overcame a tire puncture that occurred when his Toyota Hilux hit a rock while running in a river bed.

“I was a little bit annoyed with myself that I hit the rock, but anyway we had to push again,” he said. “There were one or two places that were quite tricky with the navigation, but [co-driver] Dirk [von Zitzewitz] did a good job.

“Then it was very bumpy for the second part of the stage. It was really bumpy and at quite high speed, so you really had to concentrate a lot to avoid making a mistake, because you could easily make a big mistake there.”

Toyota’s Yazeed Alrajhi came home third on Tuesday, followed by Carlos Sainz of Peugeot, who moved up to fourth in the overall with, what else, a fourth-place finish. Roma, despite his crippling setback last weekend, also appears to have found his rhythm again with a sixth-place run.

Also bouncing back somewhat was Robby Gordon. Mechanical problems on Monday cost him and co-driver Johnny Campbell more than four hours overall, but the No. 308 Gordini responded Tuesday with a solid 15th-place showing at almost 22 minutes behind Terranova.

The duo had to work hard for the result following an early tire puncture that forced them to re-pass several cars they had gotten by at the start of the stage.

However, Gordon and Campbell lost a bit of time in the overall standings to the leader as well. They now sit 40th on the big board at four hours, 24 minutes, 18 seconds off the pace.

Monday’s Stage 2, the longest of the rally, has appeared to take a serious toll. More than 30 cars failed to take the start for Tuesday; among those unable to continue was the lone all-female driving team in the Dakar, Catherine Houles and Sandrine Ridet, in their No. 422 Isuzu.

Coverage of Stage 2 of the 2015 Dakar Rally airs today at 4:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. For a full Dakar TV schedule, CLICK HERE.

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

1. 301-Nasser Al-Attiyah (Mini), 9hrs, 21mins, 26secs
2. 303-Giniel de Villiers (Toyota), + 5mins, 18secs
3. 305-Orlando Terranova (Mini), + 18mins, 5secs
4. 304-Carlos Sainz (Peugeot), + 19mins, 32secs
5. 325-Yazeed Alrajhi (Toyota), + 20mins, 8secs
6. 307-Krzysztof Holowczyc (Mini), + 25mins, 24secs
7. 314-Erik Van Loon (Mini), +27mins, 43secs
8. 315-Bernhard Ten Brinke (Toyota), + 36mins, 22secs
9. 306-Carlos Sousa (Mitsubishi), + 41mins, 52secs
10. 309-Christian Lavieille (Toyota), +43mins, 38secs

Graham Rahal’s ‘Weighty Issue’

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MONTEREY, California – Graham Rahal admits that he can’t wait until the day he doesn’t have to worry about his weight. Being a 6-foot-2, big-boned individual can have its advantages, but not when it comes to fitting into an IndyCar.

That is why the son of 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner and three-time CART IndyCar champion Bobby Rahal has begun a body shaping therapy known as “Sculpting” that uses lasers to trim away body fat.

“Honestly, it is no secret, I’m not shy about this, that I’ve struggled with my weight,” the 201-pound Rahal told a group of reporters during INDYCAR’s Open Test at Laguna Seca on Thursday. “I can guarantee you that from a strength perspective and a stamina perspective, there’s very few guys out here that can keep up with me. I’m just not a super skinny build. It’s never been my thing.

“I’ve tried. We’ve kind of looked around. There was some mutual interest from them to look into trying this, see if it works. I’ll be honest. I was always very skeptical of the stuff. Where I’m at, I’ve done one treatment. I can’t even tell you today if it’s something that really works or not.”

That led Rahal to try out the sculpting process that was invented by a doctor who found it with swelling in kid’s cheeks. The “Sculpture” process uses a laser that kills the fatty cells.

“It takes a long time, I think,” Rahal said. “It’s going to take multiple I think to get there.”

Watch Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey on NBC at 3 p.m.

A race driver needs to be thin, yet very strong to have the physical strength and stamina to compete at a high level in the race car. When it comes to the NTT IndyCar Series, it’s even more important because of the size of the cars and tight cockpit.

Additionally, the extra weight can impact the performance of the race car. The lighter the driver, the less weight inside of the car. In INDYCAR, drivers are weighed and for the lighter drivers, lead weight is added to the car to meet a requirement.

But in Rahal’s case, the lead weight ballast has to be reduced and that sometimes throws off the center of gravity in the car.

“The facts are it’s not going to work if you don’t work out, too, and eat well,” Rahal said. “It doesn’t do anything. But earlier this year, man, I had given up drinking completely for three, four months. I was working out every day, twice a day on most occasions. I went to a nutritionist, doing everything. I literally was not losing an ounce. It was the most frustrating period of time for me.

“I am the biggest guy here. Is it ever going to be equal for me? No matter what these guys talk about with driver ballast, it’s a whole different thing, where my center of gravity is.”

That is what led the 30-year-old driver from Ohio to study the “Sculpting” procedure. He realizes he is never going to have the metabolism of some of the thinner drivers, but he needs to maintain a weight that minimizes his disadvantage.

“It is a challenge,” he admitted. “Ricky Taylor and Helio Castroneves (on Penske Team Acura in IMSA) weigh 60 pounds less than me or something. There is no ballast there. That’s a big swing, a lot of weight to be carrying around.

“We have to try anything we can. If you’re going to be serious, try to find the performance advantage and the edge, you’ve got to look outside of the box.

“It is something new for me. But the fight I guess against being an ultra-skinny guy.

“I fly home with most of these guys after races, I see most of these guys a lot of times, they’re sitting there eating In-N-Out Burger, whatever else. Literally I cannot do it. If I do it, it immediately reflects for me. These guys you see them the next weekend, they’re like this big.

“It’s like, (crap), it’s not my build.”

Because of Rahal’s height and size, he chose to step away from the endurance races for Team Penske in IMSA at the end of last season. He was replaced at the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring by fellow IndyCar driver Alexander Rossi.

Rahal complained that the steering wheel actually hit his legs inside of the Acura, making it difficult for him to drive on the challenging road courses. Since that time, Acura Team Penske has moved the steering column up by a few inches, and it no longer impacts a driver the size of Rahal.

For the IMSA season-ending Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta on Oct. 12, Rahal will be back in the Team Penske Acura.

“Back in the (Team Penske) shop three weeks ago, I could actually turn the steering wheel, which I was shocked about,” Rahal said. “My head touched the roof, whatever, I’m used to that. Physically being able to steer, which I now should be able to do better.

“So I’m excited about it. It’s another great opportunity obviously with Penske. But more importantly for me is Acura, Honda. It’s a great thing to be back in.

“But that wasn’t a weight thing. It’s purely size. They just don’t build cars for guys my size. I used to talk to J.W. (Justin Wilson) about that. It’s the facts of life. Even the GT cars. You would think a GT car would be big. I don’t know if I’ve ever been in a GT car, I was comfortable in either. They’re built for small guys. That’s the way it goes.”

Rahal is taller than his father, Bobby, who is also his IndyCar team owner along with David Letterman and Michael Lanigan.

“I blame my dad,” Rahal said. “I do. You can tell him I said that. I told him, ‘It’s a genetic thing. I got good genes in some ways.’

“I told my wife this the other day, I’m very excited for someday when my career ends just to have a ‘Dad Bod,’ be able to let go for a minute, see how things turn out, because this is getting a little bit exhausting.

“We’re going to stay committed through the winter. I try my hardest every year, but I never tried harder this year to be thin. I weigh about the same as last year, but it took so much effort to get there, I just have to think outside the box.”