Dakar: Al-Attiyah in full control after Stage 10 win; Nani Roma crashes (VIDEO)

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On a Wednesday where defending Dakar Rally champion Nani Roma crashed, Nasser Al-Attiyah moved into even better position to take Roma’s crown for himself.

Al-Attiyah, who finished third in an all-Mini podium last year, captured his fourth stage victory of the 2015 Dakar and extended his overall lead to 28 minutes, 22 seconds over Toyota’s Giniel de Villiers.

The Qatari won the stage by 1 minute, 35 seconds over another Mini pilot, Orlando Terranova. Yazeed Alrajhi was third at 3:39 back, followed by Leeroy Poulter with a Dakar-best fourth (+ 4:06), and then de Villiers in fifth (+ 4:24).

“It wasn’t an easy day,” Al-Attiyah said. “I think the last few days must’ve seen a lot of rain which deepened the holes on the course. That’s what made Nani’s car turn over, but he’s fine. We’re here and I’m rather happy because I think we clocked a good time.

“We’re doing our job every day, the rest isn’t my problem. We need to get to the finish. I’m happy with how things are going, we’ve been leading the rally since the start in Buenos Aires.

“It’s not that easy, but the team’s done a great job, just like [co-driver] Mathieu [Baumel]. The only mishap we’ve had is the day we lost a wheel.”

A navigational error on Tuesday left de Villiers with a fading chance of winning the Dakar. But while he knows it will take a big stumble from Al-Attiyah to get him back in the fight, he says he hasn’t lost all hope yet.

“Nasser’s too far ahead, it makes no sense to take risks,” he said. “We won’t be able to catch him unless he makes mistakes, but it can happen.

“Yesterday was a disappointment, but we still believe in our chances, you never know. It ain’t over yet. Things are good, on balance, because we know we’re still in the fight for victory.”

Meanwhile, Roma’s apparent turning of the corner following his win in Tuesday’s Stage 9 came to an abrupt halt with a wreck that caused him, co-driver Michel Perin, and their Mini to reportedly roll over multiple times at kilometer 193.

Both Roma and Perin are fine, but it marks another disaster this year for Roma. His title defense was quickly ruined on the first day of the Dakar due to an oil-pump issue.

An official abandonment of the event for Roma following Wednesday’s crash has yet to be announced by his team.

American driver Robby Gordon had a so-so result in the 358km Stage 10 from Calama, Chile to Salta, Argentina, finishing 21st at 18:32 behind Al-Attiyah.

Gordon started the stage amongst the Top 10 but slipped back and maintained a 15th to 18th-place pace for much of the day before dropping out of the Top 20 in the final kilometers.

He and co-driver Johnny Campbell still retain 20th place in the overall standings.

NBCSN’s coverage of the Dakar Rally continues with Stage 10 highlights tomorrow at 4:30 p.m. ET.

2015 Dakar Rally – Overall Standings, Cars
(After Stage 10 – Calama, Chile to Salta, Argentina)

1. 301-Nasser Al-Attiyah (Mini), 35hrs, 19mins, 37secs
2. 303-Giniel de Villiers (Toyota), + 28mins, 22secs
3. 325-Yazeed Alrajhi (Toyota), + 43mins, 8secs
4. 307-Krzysztof Holowczyc (Mini), + 1hr, 23mins, 42secs
5. 314-Erik Van Loon (Mini), + 2hrs, 51mins, 13secs
6. 309-Christian Lavieille (Toyota), + 3hrs, 1min, 41secs
7. 310-Vladimir Vasilyev (Mini), + 3hrs, 12mins, 10secs
8. 315-Bernhard Ten Brinke (Toyota), + 3hrs, 39mins, 28secs
9. 306-Carlos Sousa (Mitsubishi), + 3hrs, 41mins, 53secs
10. 329-Aidyn Rakhimbayev (Mini), + 3hrs, 59mins, 17secs
20. 308-Robby Gordon (Gordini), + 7hrs, 41mins, 25secs

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images
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Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed their new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with US-based Ford Motors in a press event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Team Principle Christian Horner. They are the only Formula 1 team to launch in the United States, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen had already wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts will inevitably turn to establishing a dynasty – and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his principle rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.