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

Mario Andretti says Colton Herta could be next American star in F1

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Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.

If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.

“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”

The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.

Mario Andretti drives his Lotus-Ford to victory in the 1978 Grand Prix of the Netherlands (Bernard Cahier/Getty Images).

Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.

Scott Speed was the last American to run a full F1 season in 2006, and Alexander Rossi made the most recent F1 start by a U.S. driver in 2015. Rossi has said he has no desire to return to racing in Europe after winning the 2016 Indianapolis 500 and becoming an IndyCar championship contender.

But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.

“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.

“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”

Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.

Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.

A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.

“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.

“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”

Mario Andretti with four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton before the Nov. 22, 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).

During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:

–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;

–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;

Mario Andretti Colton Herta
Mario Andretti and Kyle Petty saluted “The King” by wearing their Richard Petty-style hats during the latest “Coffee With Kyle” (NBCSN).

–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”

–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.

“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”

Watch the full “Coffee With Kyle” episode in the video above or by clicking here.

Mario Andretti looks on before the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26, 2019 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).