Dakar: Yazeed Alrajhi earns maiden win in Stage 8; Al-Attiyah still overall leader (VIDEO)

0 Comments

Sunday’s Stage 8 of the 2015 Dakar Rally saw Saudi rookie Yazeed Alrajhi finally break through for his first stage win after an impressive opening week.

The victory on the return route from Uyuni, Bolivia to Iquique, Chile also keeps outside hopes alive for winning the overall title in his first try.

Alrajhi opened the Dakar last weekend with a 20th-place finish, but then rattled off results of sixth, third, fourth, second, seventh, and second before his triumph on Sunday.

After finishing Stage 8, he was understandably jovial.

“Today was a good day. We drove fast and we had fun. The most difficult part was organizing toilet stops – at such altitudes, just a sip makes you want to go,” he said.

“The in-line start in [the salt flats at] Salar was great and carried out under good conditions. We didn’t have the highest top speed, but we managed to catch up with the others. It was a bit like a game.”

Also playing the game well was overall leader Nasser Al-Attiyah, who finished third and tacked on 13 seconds to his edge over his closest pursuer, Giniel de Villiers.

de Villiers actually led the first part of the stage, but lost ground in the last stretch to the finish and had to settle for fourth. The South African said that a bit of bad luck involving a helicopter and a rock hindered him at the end.

“Apart from a problem which forced me to drive 70 kilometers only with the front brakes, the first part of the special went well,” said de Villiers, who is now behind Al-Attiyah by eight minutes, 27 seconds on the big board. “We capitalized on Nasser’s punctures to claw back three minutes.

“We were also doing fine in the second half until a helicopter flew quite low and blew fesh-fesh into the air. I couldn’t see a thing and I couldn’t stop either because of the risk of getting stuck.

“I drove 200 meters blind and had a flat after hitting a stone. That’s what let Nasser catch up with us.”

As for Alrajhi, he has cemented himself in third position overall for the time being. At 18 minutes, 40 seconds behind the Qatari, he can definitely strike should Al-Attiyah and de Villiers stumble.

Meanwhile, the American duo of Robby Gordon and Johnny Campbell had a tough opening to the second week after closing the first week with solid runs. On Sunday, the No. 308 Gordini lost more than an hour on course en route to a 43rd-place finish.

The damage in the overall standings was minimal as they slipped just one position to 24th. However, they’re now almost seven hours back of Al-Attiyah.

NBCSN’s coverage of the Dakar Rally continues with Stage 7A/8A/8B highlights on Monday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. ET.

2015 Dakar Rally – Overall Standings, Cars
(After Stage 8 – Uyuni to Iquique)

1. 301-Nasser Al-Attiyah (Mini), 26hrs, 41mins, 15secs
2. 303-Giniel de Villiers (Toyota), + 8mins, 27secs
3. 325-Yazeed Alrajhi (Toyota), + 18mins, 40secs
4. 307-Krzysztof Holowczyc (Mini), + 54mins, 38secs
5. 315-Bernhard Ten Brinke (Toyota), + 1hr, 22mins, 52secs
6. 314-Erik Van Loon (Mini), + 1hr, 25mins, 51secs
7. 309-Christian Lavielle (Toyota), + 1hr, 48mins, 41secs
8. 302-Stephane Peterhansel (Peugeot), + 1hr, 51mins, 46secs
9. 306-Carlos Sousa (Mitsubishi), + 2hrs, 7mins, 13secs
10. 320-Ronan Chabot (SMG), + 2hrs, 26mins, 50 secs

24. 308-Robby Gordon (Gordini), + 6hrs, 53mins, 21secs

AJ Foyt Racing promotes Benjamin Pedersen from Indy Lights to IndyCar for 2023 season

Benjamin Pedersen AJ Foyt
AJ Foyt Racing
2 Comments

Benjamin Pedersen is the first driver to land a promotion from Indy Lights into IndyCar for next season as AJ Foyt Racing confirmed Wednesday he’ll be part of its 2023 lineup.

Pedersen, a 23-year-old dual citizen of Denmark and the United States, spent last season running the full Indy Lights schedule for HMD Motorsports. Linus Lundqvist, his teammate, won the Lights title, and Pedersen finished fifth in the final standings. Pedersen earned his only win earlier this month when he led every lap from the pole at Portland.

Pedersen also ran four races for HMD in 2021 with back-to-back runner-up finishes in his debut. Pedersen landed on AJ Foyt Racing team president Larry Foyt’s radar through a “trusted colleague” and Pedersen spent most of last season shadowing the IndyCar team.

His promotion to IndyCar comes ahead of all four drivers who finished ahead of him in the Indy Lights standings, including champion Lundqvist.

“We are really looking forward to having Benjamin as part of the team,” Larry Foyt said. “His enthusiasm is infectious, and he is 100 percent committed to IndyCar, AJ Foyt Racing, and doing the best he can to win races.

“It’s been great to have him embedded with the team this past season, and everyone is excited to hit the ground running when testing begins. It is also great to have a multi-year program in place, which will help him and the team grow together.”

Foyt did not announce a car number for Pedersen. Kyle Kirkwood spent his rookie season driving AJ Foyt’s flagship No. 14 but Kirkwood is moving to Andretti Autosport. The team has not yet announced if Dalton Kellett will return for a fourth season, and a third car for Tatiana Calderon was pulled from competition after seven races because of sponsorship non-payment. Shutting down Calderon’s team removed the only semi-regular female driver from the IndyCar field.

Pedersen, however, was signed to an agreement Foyt said “spans multiple seasons as the team plans to develop the young rookie and is aligned to a longer-term plan for AJ Foyt Racing.”

Pedersen was born in Copenhagen but raised in Seattle and currently lives in Indianapolis. He said his time shadowing the IndyCar team has given him a jump on his rookie preparations.

“I’ve spent a lot of time this season with AJ Foyt Racing learning the ins and outs of making the jump to IndyCar and it’s been really nice to do that in conjunction with my Indy Lights season,” Pedersen said. “IndyCar has been my target goal since I started open wheel racing in 2016. The racing, atmosphere, fans, events, tracks, etc. are all awesome.”