Dakar: After challenging for Stage 6 win, Robby Gordon settles for fourth (VIDEO)

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As alluded to yesterday, if Robby Gordon’s bright-orange Gordini can hold up against the rigors of the Dakar Rally, its pace can put it amongst the leaders.

For a second consecutive stage, that was what happened. Starting third after their second podium of the 2015 Dakar on Thursday, Gordon and co-driver Johnny Campbell took the lead with less than 50 kilometers remaining in Friday’s run from Antofagasta to Iquique, Chile.

But Nasser Al-Attiyah, who has been the major player in the opening week of the event, would not be denied. Down 32 seconds to Gordon at the sixth waypoint, the Qatari flipped that to a one-second lead for himself at the seventh and final waypoint.

Gordon then lost more time in the final kilometers, falling to fourth at the finish behind winner Al-Attiyah (who claimed his third stage win of the event), runner-up Giniel de Villiers (+ :37), and third-place Nani Roma (+ 1:24). Gordon ended up an additional 21 ticks behind Roma, the 2014 Dakar champion.

The near-miss didn’t keep Gordon from putting on a bit of a show afterwards for fans in Iquique:

source: Getty Images
“Flight 308, you are now cleared for takeoff…” Photo: Getty Images.

But despite his valiant efforts, Mini remains perfect with six wins in six stages thanks to Al-Attiyah’s latest triumph.

“We did a good job and I’m quite happy to win the stage,” Al-Attiyah said. “It’s a good day for us again. We pushed a little bit in the dunes but we were really careful from the beginning because it was really not easy. The route today was just only really for buggies. Our time was really good and I’m quite happy.”

In the overall, Al-Attiyah has now pushed his lead over de Villiers to 11 minutes, 12 seconds. The South African remains searching for his first stage win but remains well within striking distance.

“For sure, we have to do our best every day,” de Villiers said. “We know Nasser is very, very quick, so it’s not easy to catch him, but we try our best and we try every day and there are still a few days to come. It’s OK.

“It would be better if we could take some time from him, but I’m quite happy. Obviously, he was going quite fast so it was not too bad to only lose 37 seconds.”

The battle for supremacy will hit new heights – literally – on Saturday in Stage 7 from Iquique to Uyuni, Bolivia, a route that will see competitors climbing well north of 3,500 meters high. Sunday’s Stage 8 will have the cars head back down to Iquique for the start of the second week.

Adding to the difficulty is that the next two days will comprise a “marathon” stage where drivers cannot call upon their assistance teams for help. The Dakar’s website explains further details:

“Split over two days, a marathon stage involves some of the competitors spending the night in an isolated bivouac. The vehicles are taken into a closed area, where only help between competitors is authorized. Despite the technical challenge which this constraint represents, the drivers also enjoy a different, highly convivial atmosphere. In Uyuni, it will be the car teams which will spend a night apart, followed by the motorcyclists and quad bikers the next day (Jan. 12). The truck category will have its own dedicated bivouac in the middle of the Atacama Desert.”

The cars and trucks have not done a marathon stage in the Dakar since 2005. Roma expects that it will provide a severe test.

“The marathon stage is a big, big challenge,” he said. It’s a new country. I think everybody in the rally will like to drive in a new country. It’s quite hard, but I’m more worried about the high altitude of 4,000 meters. It’s quite nice, but it makes my head so painful.

“It’s true, it’s a long time since I last did a marathon stage, without tires, without the team, without mechanics. It’s a big challenge and we’ll see tomorrow night, and in two days’ time in Iquique again.”

NBCSN’s coverage of the Dakar Rally continues with Stage 6 highlights on Saturday morning at 6 a.m. ET.

2015 Dakar Rally – Overall Standings, Cars
(After Stage 6 – Antofagasta to Iquique)

1. 301-Nasser Al-Attiyah (Mini), 19hrs, 30mins, 44secs
2. 303-Giniel de Villiers (Toyota), + 11mins, 12 secs
3. 325-Yazeed Alrajhi (Toyota), + 28mins, 44secs
4. 307-Krzysztof Holowczyc (Mini), + 1hr, 0mins, 53secs
5. 315-Bernhard Ten Brinke (Toyota), + 1hr, 4mins, 23secs
6. 314-Erik Van Loon (Mini), + 1hr, 6mins, 43secs
7. 309-Christian Lavieille (Toyota), + 1hr, 27mins, 22 secs
8. 306-Carlos Sousa (Mitsubishi), + 1hr, 42mins, 45secs
9. 320-Ronan Chabot (SMG), + 1hr, 49mins, 27secs
10. 302-Stephane Peterhansel (Peugeot), + 1hr, 49mins, 41secs

25. 308-Robby Gordon (Gordini), + 5hrs, 47mins, 31secs

Indianapolis Motor Speedway can have 10,000 fans for IndyCar races

Indianapolis Motor Speedway fans
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
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Indianapolis Motor Speedway will have crowds for its NTT IndyCar Series race weekend next month, the first time fans are allowed at the track this year.

The track announced Friday that up to 10,000 fans will be allowed in the grandstands daily from Oct. 1-4. The IndyCar Harvest GP race doubleheader will be held on the track’s road course Oct. 2-3.

IMS has played host to several events this year without fans, including the 104th Indianapolis 500 on Aug. 23 and a NASCAR-IndyCar weekend July 4-5 that included the Brickyard 400. Plans originally were made to have fans at the Indy 500 before reversing course a few weeks ahead of the race. In a letter last month, Roger Penske vowed that fans would return for the 2021 Indy 500.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS president Doug Boles said in a release. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

Fans will undergo temperature screenings upon entry and also be required to wear face coverings at all times on property. The track said each attendee will receive a mask and bottle of hand sanitizer.

The Friday, Oct. 2 race will be shown at 3:30 p.m. ET on USA, and NBC will broadcast the Saturday, Oct. 3 race at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Here’s the release from Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020 – For the first time in 2020, Indianapolis Motor Speedway will welcome fans to the Racing Capital of the World for the INDYCAR Harvest GP presented by GMR weekend. Up to 10,000 spectators can be in the grandstands each day of racing action Oct. 1-4, per approval from the Marion County Public Health Department.

Tickets are available now via IMS.com and will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis.

The massive facility, which holds more than 300,000 people, will provide two spectator zones with up to 5,000 fans in each. The zones will be located in Turns 1 and 4 of the oval, offering strong sightlines of the road course. Strict health and safety rules will be in place, including the following:

  • Face coverings must be worn throughout the property at all times;
  • All fans will receive temperature screenings before gate entry;
  • Grandstand seats will be marked for distancing;
  • Attendees must use pre-assigned gates and remain in their designated zones.

Global Medical Response, the world leader in compassionate, quality emergency medical and patient relocation services, will be the presenting sponsor of the penultimate weekend of INDYCAR racing this season.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

The plan, which includes each attendee receiving a mask and a bottle of hand sanitizer upon entering the track, was developed in consultation with state and local health officials.

This event weekend is highlighted by an NTT INDYCAR SERIES doubleheader, with races Friday, Oct. 2 and Saturday, Oct. 3. It will be the penultimate event of the series’ season as the field pursues the champion’s prestigious Astor Challenge Cup to be awarded Sunday, Oct. 25 at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

The INDYCAR Harvest GP will pay tribute to a storied IMS event, the Harvest Classic in September 1916. The Harvest Classic was the only racing event held outside of May at IMS from 1911 through 1993. The event featured three races, all won by legendary driver Johnny Aitken.

Fans also will see a host of facility improvements during the event weekend, including more than 30 new LED video boards, refreshed concession stands and restrooms, and 5G wireless connectivity throughout the facility.

The first race will air at 3:30 p.m. (ET) Friday, Oct. 2 on the USA Network. NBC will broadcast the second race at 2:30 p.m. (ET) Saturday, Oct. 3, with WTHR-13 airing the action live in Central Indiana.

Also racing that weekend will be the first pairing of two major sports car series — the Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli and its North American counterpart, GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS. Former Indianapolis 500 pole winner Ryan Briscoe is among the drivers in the Indianapolis 8 Hour event held Sunday, Oct. 4.

The event also will showcase drivers in SRO America’s Pirelli GT4 America, GT Sports Club America and the TC America series.

The full on-track schedule is available at IMS.com.