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

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.