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

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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.

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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

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.