Dakar: Helder Rodrigues wins in Stage 6 bikes; Barreda extends overall lead (VIDEO)

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Helder Rodrigues’ quiet first week of the 2015 Dakar Rally ended with a bang as the Portuguese rider took the motorcycle category into its rest day with a win in Stage 6 on Friday.

In a 318-kilometer stage from Antofagasta to Iquique, Chile, Rodrigues was pressured primarily by Dakar rookie Toby Price. But he was able to hold off the Australian by a margin of 1 minute, 10 seconds, and jump from 10th to sixth in the overall standings.

“I started out from behind, but I caught up with the riders who were opening the road,” Rodrigues said in a Honda release. “They were very quick, but I also had the speed to catch them. I’m pleased with the way it turned out and was very calm until the end.

“It’s a rest day tomorrow, which we really need, to get the energy back and plan next the second week as well as possible. I want to keep attacking and claw back a bit of time in the overall standings.”

Adding to Honda’s good Friday was Joan Barreda extending his overall lead with a sixth-place finish in the stage. That was only one spot ahead of main rival Marc Coma, but that one spot meant almost two minutes in Barreda’s favor. “Bang Bang” now leads Coma by 12 and a half minutes on the big board.

“I caught up with Marc quickly and we were together all the way from then on,” said Barreda. “There were some parts of fast track, some stretches were harder, some were like trial, and when we got to the dunes some of the other riders caught up with us and stayed there until the end.

“It was what we had expected but you still had to be careful.”

Coma opened the path Friday and also had to deal with what he called a small crash. Additionally, he and Barreda briefly took the wrong track after kilometer 130 before returning.

“…The rhythm was coming back again [after the crash], but the navigation was very difficult and it was very tough to find the way,” Coma said in a KTM release. “Joan was always with me and he’s become my shadow the last three days. But it’s like this. Everyone is playing their cards.”

Coma wasn’t the only KTM rider that had a less than smooth stage.

His factory teammate, Jordi Viladoms, was hit with a 40-minute penalty after missing a way point, and Stage 3 winner Matthias Walkner lost more than three hours. The same KTM release said his team indicated fuel issues on the Austrian’s bike, but that had yet to be confirmed.

Thus, Price led the way for the manufacturer with his first podium of the event after several Top-5 runs earlier this week.

“I caught a bit of dust at first but then I made my way around some of the guys and was in the clear,” Price said. “I almost missed a way point at one stage but I turned back and got it.

“After than, I kept motoring along and I didn’t get lost one bit. I was pretty surprised. I think the navigation is slowly coming. I think we’re getting the hang of it now. I take my time with it and at the end of the day, it’s better because I don’t rush things. I’m stoked to be at the halfway [point] and to get a good result today.”

Honda’s Paulo Goncalves was third on Friday at 1 minute, 42 seconds behind Rodrigues. He remains third in the overall as well, down a little more than 17 minutes there.

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, Motorcycles
(After Stage 6 – Antofagasta to Iquique)

1. 2-Joan Barreda (Honda), + 21hrs, 38mins, 35secs
2. 1-Marc Coma (KTM), + 12mins, 27secs
3. 7-Paulo Goncalves (Honda), + 17mins, 12secs
4. 31-Pablo Quintanilla (KTM), + 29mins, 57secs
5. 26-Toby Price (KTM), + 33mins, 44secs
6. 5-Helder Rodrigues (Honda), + 36mins, 4secs
7. 11-Ruben Faria (KTM), + 40mins, 27secs
8. 18-Stefan Svitko (KTM), + 41mins, 27 secs
9. 14-Alain Duclos (Sherco), + 52mins, 56 secs
10. 9-David Casteu (KTM), + 1hr, 14mins, 52secs

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