Dakar: Joan Barreda nets second stage win, extends overall lead in bikes (VIDEO)

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Honda rider Joan Barreda has stretched his overall lead in the Dakar Rally after picking up his second stage win of the 2015 edition in Wednesday’s Stage 4.

Barreda (pictured, right, with Dakar race director Etienne Lavigne) took the 315 km run from Chilecito, Argentina to Copiapo, Chile with a time of 3 hours, 27 minutes, 28 seconds, just under two minutes quicker than defending Dakar champion and KTM rider Marc Coma.

Coma has moved up to second in the overall standings following tough outings from Paulo Goncalves (12th in stage, +14:56) and Tuesday’s winner, Matthias Walkner (22nd in stage, +22:55).

Nonetheless, Barreda has put additional distance on Coma and now holds the overall lead over him by a margin of 12 minutes, 49 seconds. The two title rivals from one year ago are fighting each other again for glory.

“I’m delighted,” Barreda said. “The first part of the stage was a very fast but complicated track. Marc was ahead and it was very difficult to catch up with him. I stayed focused and motivated. I caught up with him towards kilometer 100 and eased into a solid pace. We tackled dunes and navigation was difficult. Marc and I finished together.

“I’ve got a good strategy. We’re in control. The next few days will be extremely tough. Actually, there’s a big chunk of Dakar left and we know there are tricky situations ahead.

“We know that if we keep an eye on Marc, we’ll follow a strong pace, because he’s the reference.”

Coma admitted that Wednesday’s run was “grueling” but felt that he still turned in a good performance. And he remains confident that he can reel in Barreda.

“…I started second. I knew I had to avoid mistakes at all costs, considering my place in the overall,” he said. “I tried to go as fast as possible and soon I was opening the road. At the end, I spent all day long at the front.

“The first part was quite tough – Matthias got lost towards the start of the stage. The last part featured lots of changes of direction and course. In fact, this type of situation is my cup of tea when riding in the desert.

“I’ll keep this solid pace up and I’ll inject some speed to force mistakes and problems in others, hoping not to suffer any myself.”

Entering his home soil today, KTM rider Pablo Quintanilla took the final step of the podium in Wednesday’s stage at 2 minutes, 49 seconds back of Barreda. Coma’s factory KTM teammates, Jordi Viladoms (fourth in stage, +10:44) and Ruben Faria (fifth in stage, +10:55), completed the Top 5.

As Coma mentioned, Walkner came back to Earth after winning Tuesday in just his third career Dakar stage.

The Austrian’s time at the first checkpoint was five minutes slower than those of Coma and Barreda. Combined with his later navigational errors, he lost 23 minutes on Wednesday and slipped from third to eighth in the overall.

Likely a happier rider after Wednesday was Honda’s Laia Sanz, who finished eighth in the stage at almost 14 minutes behind factory Honda teammate Barreda. She’s been putting in steady work so far in her fourth Dakar, with finishes of 16th, 16th, and 17th before today’s jump into the Top-10. In the overall, she’s now 12th.

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

2015 Dakar Rally – Overall Standings, Motorcycles
(After Stage 4 – Chilecito to Copiapo)
1. 2-Joan Barreda (Honda), 13hrs, 10mins, 33secs
2. 1-Marc Coma (KTM), + 12mins, 49secs
3. 7-Paulo Goncalves (Honda), + 20mins, 29secs
4. 11-Ruben Faria (KTM), + 23 mins, 5secs
5. 4-Jordi Viladoms (KTM), + 24mins, 51secs
6. 31-Pablo Quintanilla (KTM), + 30mins, 42secs
7. 26-Toby Price (KTM), + 32mins, 5secs
8. 27-Matthias Walkner (KTM), + 33mins, 28secs
9. 14-Alain Duclos (Sherco), + 36mins, 31secs
10. 5-Helder Rodrigues (Honda), + 39mins, 5secs

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans

LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.