Cyril Despres. Getty Images

Dakar 2017: Halfway report, Stage 6 cancellation videos

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The second half of the 2017 Dakar Rally kicks off today with the seventh stage of competition, from La Paz to Uyuni. Stage six, scheduled for Saturday, was cancelled due to miserable weather.

Videos from NBCSN’s coverage from the weekend are linked in this post. The next Dakar Rally show is Monday at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

In the 12-stage rally, the contenders for the win are starting to become clearer. How those listed below rise or fall over the next few days of competition will determine if they bring home a win.

CARS

Defending Dakar champion Stephane Peterhansel looks to extend his record run of double-digit Dakar wins, but will have to fend off two of his Peugeot teammates to do so. Sebastien Loeb, meanwhile, is poised to capture his first overall Dakar win and will look to overcome an achievable gap of just over one minute. Nani Roma (Toyota) boasts the best chance of those not driving a Peugeot trying to win.

Of note, Orlando Terranova ranks seventh in the MINI originally scheduled for American Bryce Menzies. Giniel De Villiers is eighth in another Toyota, and Romain Dumas sits 10th in a Peugeot.

Stephane Peterhansel during stage five of the 2017 Dakar Rally between Tupiza and Oruro on January 6, 2017 at an unspecified location in Bolivia. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)

1. 300-Stephane Peterhansel, Peugeot, 14:02:58
2. 309-Sebastien Loeb, Peugeot, +1:09
3. 307-Cyril Despres, Peugeot, +4:54
4. 305-Nani Roma, Toyota, +5:35
5. 303-Mikko Hirvonen, MINI, +42.21

BIKES

The bike rally has almost been a process of elimination with Juan Pedrero, Joan Barreda, American Ricky Brabec and defending champion Toby Price all falling from contention and in Price’s case, dropping out entirely with a fractured left femur. Seeing the competitors rally to support Price as Price has offered updates on a quick recovery has been one of the Dakar’s highlights this year.

Among those who’ve rallied to Price is Sam Sunderland, the Englishman who’s currently the rally leader on bikes by 12 minutes over Pablo Quintanilla.

Of note, Brabec sits 21st in the rally, more than an hour behind. Barreda has fallen to 11th, and Pedrero down to 24th. Others who’ve factored in the early stages – Xavier de Soultrait (sixth), Paulo Goncalves (ninth) – are also out of the top five.

LA PAZ, BOLIVIA – JANUARY 08: Sam Sunderland of Great Britain and KTM poses for a photograph during a rest day for the 2017 Dakar Rally on January 8, 2017 in La Paz, Bolivia. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)

1. 14-Sam Sunderland, KTM, 15:22:05
2. 3-Pablo Quintanilla, Husqvarna, +12:00
3. 6-Adrien Van Beveren, Yamaha, +16:07
4. 8-Gerard Farres Guell, KTM, +20:57
5. 16-Matthias Walkner, KTM, +29:01

QUADS

Simon Vitse leads what is at the moment a 1-4 sweep by Yamaha, with Daniel Mazzucco fifth in the first Can-Am at 47 minutes, 32 seconds in arrears.

1. 279-Simon Vitse, Yamaha, 19:32:22
2. 254-Sergey Karayakin, Yamaha, +8:14
3. 280-Axel Dutrie, Yamaha, +10:35

TRUCKS

Gerard De Rooy keeps one red, white and blue flag (Netherlands) ahead of a trio of drivers with another red, white and blue flag (Russia) in the truck category.

1. 500-Gerard De Rooy, Iveco, 14:06:07
2. 505-Eduard Nikolaev, Kamaz, +2:23
3. 513-Dmitri Sotnikov, Kamaz, +6:36

UTV

Leandro Torres leads this class by more than two hours.

1. 351-Leandro Torres, Polaris, 25:22:24
2. 342-Mao Ruijin, Polaris, +2:34:04
3. 374-Li Dongsheng, Polaris, +2:47:25

STAGE RECAPS

Stage six (cancelled due to weather)
Stage five (shortened due to weather)
Stage four and (VIDEOS)
Stage three and (VIDEOS)
Stage two and (VIDEOS)
Stage one and (VIDEOS)

Helio Castroneves: ‘I have nothing to lose’ Sunday in bid for 4th Indy 500 win

All photos: IndyCar
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You might say Helio Castroneves comes into Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 with a “less is more” philosophy than he’s had in years past:

* No pressure

* No worrying about points

* No worrying about winning a championship

Take away all those things and the very popular Brazilian driver could be in the best position he’s ever been to achieve the biggest goal of his career:

Winning a fourth Indy 500, making him a member of motor racing’s most exclusive club, joining legendary drivers A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears as the only drivers to conquer the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway four times each.

Like his car number, Castroneves has won the Indy 500 three times. He wants to change that number to four times in Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Greatest Spectacle In Racing. Photo: IndyCar.

“For sure, I definitely don’t have much to lose in terms of points, championships, and things like that,” Castroneves told MotorSportsTalk earlier this week. “I don’t have to think that I don’t have a car to win, I’m not going to risk that much because there are still championship points (to earn if he was still racing full-time in the series).

“Not that I did that before, but if the situation occurs, people just need to know I have nothing to lose this time.”

Castroneves three prior triumphs in the 500 came in his first two years in the field – 2001 and 2002 – and again in 2009. In addition, he has finished twice in the last four editions of the Greatest Spectacle In Racing in 2014 and 2017.

Coming so close last year, losing to Takuma Sato by .201 of a second, is something Castroneves hasn’t forgotten about. To come so close to No. 4 has only made him more hungry to get it done on Sunday.

“Yeah, but if it were easy, we would likely have had more than four wins by now,” he said. “We’ve had opportunities in the past, the last four years we were really competitive, we were right there, especially in ’14 and ’17, we were right on it.

“Last year, I thought it was going to be the hardest 500 for me and look what happened: we were battling to the end for a victory,” Castroneves said. “It’s not just about trying hard, it’s about being there at the right place at the right time.

“And this place, Indianapolis, I’ve always said the track winds up choosing who is going to be the winner. Hopefully, with safety and luck, we’ll be part of it and be on the right side.”

Team owner Roger Penske decided after last season to put Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya as the chief drivers of Team Penske’s new two-car effort in the IMSA WeatherTech Championship sports car series.

When the announcement was first made, many feared that Castroneves had run out of chances to get that elusive No. 4 at Indy.

But Penske sweetened the deal for Helio to go sports car racing by promising he’d field a car for him at Indy. And Penske has proven to be a man of his word, giving Castroneves everything he needs to finally win No. 4.

“I feel we’ve prepared as much as a team, we’re doing everything possible in relation to preparation,” Castroneves said. “The preparation we had in the previous year helps us tremendously to give us an opportunity fighting there for a win, and that’s what we’re looking for.”

Castroneves has taken to the new style Indy car with aplomb. During the first week of practice leading up to last weekend’s qualifying, he was consistently one of the fastest drivers in the field.

The 43-year-old even topped the speed charts in the Fast Nine last Saturday before ending up eighth in the following day’s pole qualifying.

As a result, he’ll start Sunday’s race from the middle of Row 3, anchoring Team Penske’s four-man Top 8 starting lineup effort in the 500. When the green flag drops, to his left will be Danica Patrick and to his right will be four-time IndyCar champ and former 500 winner Scott Dixon.

And millions of others right behind him, so to speak.

“I feel the sense that everyone wants it to happen,” he said of winning No. 4. “We’re talking about being part of history here. The last guy to do it was Rick Mears in the ‘90s (1991).

“I mean, how cool would that be if I would be in the position and to see No. 4 in my era. I hear a lot of the fans, even those supporting different drivers, all saying ‘Man, I want to see you win No. 4.’ That just shows how special this place is.

“(The Indy 500) is part of a lot of people’s lives. I just would be very fortunate to hopefully to have this generation see someone do No. 4.”

While he’d rather not think about missing out on a fourth win at Indy for a ninth straight year, Castroneves is using reverse psychology somewhat.

He’s going into Sunday’s biggest race in the world fully believing he will finally win No. 4.

And if he does, forget the idea that he would never come back to race at Indy again.

“Not at all. Why? You’re so close to getting four, and then when you get four, you stop it? It doesn’t make sense.

“I think I still have at least four or five more years, there’s no question about it. As long as Roger (Penske) gives me the opportunity, I’m going to be going for it, for sure.”

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