Dakar: Al-Attiyah wins Stage 4, puts three minutes on De Villiers (VIDEO)

Leave a comment

A tight battle in Wednesday’s Stage 4 of the 2015 Dakar Rally went to Nasser Al-Attiyah, who not only chalked up his second stage win of the event but also put nearly three minutes on his closest rival, Giniel de Villiers.

The win was up for grabs nearly all the way to the end of the run from Chilecito, Argentina to Copiapo, Chile. At the fifth and final checkpoint, Peugeot’s Stephane Peterhansel was leading the way by a mere 17 seconds over Toyota’s Yazeed Alrajhi and by 31 seconds over Al-Attiyah.

But Peterhansel suffered a flat tire after a sizable jump. That opened the door for his rivals and in the end, it was Al-Attiyah that emerged victorious by two minutes, 40 seconds over defending Dakar champ Nani Roma – who has surely put his horrible start last weekend behind him now.

de Villiers finished third (+2:57), followed by Alrajhi in fourth (+3:25). Peterhansel was forced to settle for fifth (+5:48).

Afterwards, Al-Attiyah seemed to place de Villiers, the South African, as his main rival for the time being.

“It was a good day for us. We went a bit harder on the dunes towards the end of the stage,” the Qatari said. “Giniel’s the man to beat. He’s always very consistent in the Dakar, always near the top, so putting three minutes into him is great.

“I’ll keep doing things this way, driving cautiously and attacking every now and then. Yesterday, we took things easier and today, we attacked a bit. This gives us some margin to kick back a little tomorrow.”

Al-Attiyah’s overall lead over de Villiers is now at eight minutes, 15 seconds. But de Villiers says everything’s going according to plan from his perspective.

“The first part wasn’t that difficult, but we tried to attack throughout the part with dunes, which requires a laser-like focus,” he said of his day. “We didn’t take any risks at all in the rocky parts because a flat tire costs you loads of time.

“We’ve usually had good stages in Chile, it’s very demanding and usually interesting. Everything’s going fine. We need to stay on this path.”

While Al-Attiyah and de Villiers carried on with fine efforts, multiple contenders saw their Dakar hopes severely damaged. Stage 3 winner Orlando Terranova, Peugeot’s Carlos Sainz, and America’s own Robby Gordon all fell victim to mechanical problems.

Gordon lost nearly an hour and a half because of his mishap on the No. 308 Gordini he shares with co-driver Johnny Campbell. They’re now 39th overall, down by a total of 5 hours, 47 minutes, 45 seconds to Al-Attiyah.

As for Terranova and Sainz, they have yet to finish the stage at the time of this post.

NBCSN’s coverage of the Dakar Rally continues with Stage 4 highlights tomorrow at 4:30 p.m. ET.

—-

2015 Dakar Rally – Overall Standings, Cars
(After Stage 4 – Chilecito to Copiapo)
1. 301-Nasser Al-Attiyah (Mini), 12hrs, 30mins, 44secs
2. 303-Giniel de Villiers (Toyota,), + 8mins, 15secs
3. 325-Yazeed Alrajhi (Toyota), + 23mins, 33secs
4. 315-Bernhard Ten Brinke (Toyota), + 42mins, 32secs
5. 307-Krzysztof Holowczyc (Mini), + 43mins, 30secs
6. 314-Erik Van Loon (Mini), + 45mins, 14secs
7. 306-Carlos Sousa (Mitsubishi), + 59mins, 26secs
8. 309-Christian Lavieille (Toyota), + 1hr, 0mins, 44secs
9. 329-Aidyn Rakhimbayev (Mini), 1hr, 4mins, 23secs (30secs penalty)
10. 320-Ronan Chabot (SMG), 1hr, 11mins, 30secs

F1 tests: Mercedes innovates with wheel adjustment system

Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.