Dakar: Marc Coma cuts into Joan Barreda’s lead with Stage 5 victory (VIDEO)

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Defending Dakar Rally champion Marc Coma (pictured) clawed back more than two minutes from rival Joan Barreda in winning Thursday’s Stage 5 from Copiapo to Antofagasta, Chile.

KTM rider Coma overtook Barreda early in the 458km special stage and stayed steady for the remainder en route to a 2-minute, 16-second victory over his Honda rival. With the win, Coma has cut Barreda’s overall advantage to 10 minutes, 33 seconds.

Having to deal with the dreaded fesh-fesh – that finely ground sand that can spell disaster for any off-road racer – kept Coma on his toes.

“It was a very tough stage. There was fesh-fesh all the time and in the fesh-fesh, you cannot see the stones and it is not comfortable to ride,” he said. “You are always having to pay attention. After 30 km, I was at the front and opening the stage again. I tried to lead at a good pace and not take to many risks, because today was very tricky.

“At the end, I’m happy how the day was. It’s going to be very difficult to take time from Joan, but, you know, we have a lot of racing in front of us. There’s the second part of the rally and we’ll have two marathon stages. We will try like hell until the last day. We know that Joan is very fast and that he has a very high level, but we will try, for sure.”

Sherco rider Alain Duclos (ninth on Thursday) was also vivid in his imagery of the stage, noting that while competitors could run fast on the wide tracks, hitting the bumps were like, in his words, “stepping on landmines.”

“Frankly, this stage was like a punishment: I hated it,” he said. “I was expecting it to be like that. My arms are hurting, I’ve no strength left in my hands and I’m right at the limit. There was no respite. You had to keep your wits about you from the start to the finish.

“…Even if the suspensions did worked as well as they could, my arms, thighs and back are done in. I’m just happy to finish this special in one piece. I set off thinking this stage would cause plenty of damage and on the face of it, I wasn’t wrong.”

Having another great day in Stage 5 was Pablo Quintanilla, who has picked up the pace in his homeland. The Chilean scored his second consecutive third-place finish on Thursday at 2 minutes, 40 seconds behind fellow KTM’er Coma. He’s also moved up to fourth in the overall at a little over eight minutes back of third-place Paulo Goncalves.

Fourth place on Thursday went to Slovakia’s Stefan Svitko, and Goncalves himself completed the stage’s Top 5.

NBCSN’s coverage of the Dakar Rally continues Friday at 4 p.m. ET.

2015 Dakar Rally – Overall Standings, Motorcycles
(After Stage 5 – Copiapo to Antofagasta)

1. 2-Joan Barreda (Honda), 17hrs, 51mins, 5secs
2. 1-Marc Coma (KTM), + 10hrs, 33mins
3. 7-Paulo Goncalves (Honda), +22mins, 50secs
4. 31-Pablo Quintanilla (KTM), + 31mins, 6secs
5. 4-Jorge Viladoms (KTM), + 36mins, 23secs
6. 11-Ruben Faria (KTM), + 38mins, 13secs
7. 27-Matthias Walkner (KTM), +38mins, 36secs
8. 26-Toby Price (KTM), + 39mins, 54secs
9. 18-Stefan Svitko (KTM), + 42mins, 5secs
10. 5-Helder Rodrigues (Honda), + 43mins, 24secs

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10-3 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 7 p.m. to USA Network. Peacock will have flag-to-flag coverage.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III