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Dakar Rally Stage 12: Leads close in Cars and Trucks; just 2 stages remain

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Editor’s note: Check out expanded video highlights of Stage 12 Friday at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

After playing offense through much of the first 11 stages (not including the washed-out Stage 9 on Monday), as contenders move closer to the conclusion of the 40th Dakar Rally, there’s a definite move to playing defense.

A perfect example of that is Spain’s Carlos Sainz in the Cars class. During Thursday’s Stage 12, Sainz was in a defensive mode to preserve his lead in the overall standings.

But while Sainz was playing defense, France’s Stephane Peterhansel could do nothing but be on the offensive, cutting nearly 16 minutes off Sainz’ overall lead.

While Sainz still leads by 45 minutes, anything can happen in the remaining two stages on Friday and Saturday. One thing is certain: Sainz has learned quite a few lessons from his previous five appearances in the Rally, never reaching it to the finish line.

The main thing is not only defense, but also patience, as he readily put on display Thursday.

In the final two stages, Sainz will once again have to play defense to maintain his overall lead, but his four closest challengers – Peterhansel, Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah (who won Thursday’s stage, his third of this year’s Rally), the Netherlands’ Bernhard ten Brinke and South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers – will be going all-out.

The winner of the last two Rallys, Peterhansel, however, has seemingly all but conceded the overall win in the class to Sainz.

“It’s finished now,” he said. “For sure, we will try to secure second place, so we controlled the gap with Nasser.

“I’m crossing my fingers for (second) but also for Carlos. After the big damage to the car that we got on the marathon stage (seven), we lost approximately one hour and forty-five minutes, so coming back into second place is OK.”

Also of note, Thursday’s stage was cancelled for motorcycles and quads due to weather conditions.

Here’s the Stage 12 results, as well as updated overall rankings:

  1. Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah, Toyota, 5:49:57
  2. France’s Stephane Peterhansel, Peugeot, 5:52:00
  3. South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers, Toyota: 5:54:30
  4. Argentina’s Orlando Terranova, Mini, 5:55:53
  5. The Netherlands’ Bernhard ten Brinke, Toyota, 5:57:50

OVERALL 

  1. Spain’s Carlos Sainz
  2. France’s Stephane Peterhansel, 44:41 behind
  3. Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah, 1:05:55 behind
  4. The Netherlands’ Bernhard ten Brinke, 1:17:21 behind
  5. South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers, 1:26:31 behind

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TRUCKS

Ton van Genugten won his second stage of this year’s Rally on Thursday, followed by the Czech Republic’s Martin Kolomy and Russia’s Eduard Nikolaev.

But the biggest news is how Argentina’s Federico Villagra closed to within one second of overall leader Nikolaev. It’s a guarantee the last two stages will be shootouts between the two competitors.

Here’s the Stage 12 results, as well as updated overall rankings:

  1. Netherland’s Ton van Genugten, Iveco, 7:02:36
  2. Czech Republic’s Martin Kolomy, Tatra, 7:06:47
  3. Russia’s Eduard Nikolaev, Kamaz, 7:08:57
  4. Argentina’s Federico Villagra, Iveco, 7:10:05
  5. Kazakhstan’s Artur Ardavichus, Iveco, 7:17:50

OVERALL 

  1. Russia’s Eduard Nikolaev
  2. Argentina’s Federico Villagra, 0:00:01
  3. Belarus’s Siarhei Vlazovich, 3:26:14 behind
  4. Russia’s Airat Mardeev, 5:20:15 behind
  5. Netherland’s Ton van Genugten, 5:23:40 behind

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BIKES

Weather prevented the bikes from taking to the course for Thursday’s Stage 12.

Here’s the overall standings as they were after Stage 11 and remain the same going into Friday’s Stage 13.

OVERALL 

  1. Austria’s Matthias Walkner
  2. Argentina’s Kevin Benavides, 32:00 behind
  3. Australia’s Toby Price, 39:17 behind
  4. Spain’s Gerard Farres, 49:17 behind
  5. France’s Antoine Meo, 59:05 behind

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QUADS

Weather prevented the Quads from taking to the course for Thursday’s Stage 12.

Here’s the overall standings as they were after Stage 11 and remain the same going into Friday’s Stage 13.

  1. Chile’s Ignacio Casale
  2. Argentina’s Nicolas Cavigliasso, 1:34:13 behind
  3. Argentina’s Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli, 2:09:15 behind
  4. France’s Alex Dutrie, 3:56:48 behind
  5. Brazil’s Marcelo Medeiros, 4:22:22 behind

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SxS UTV

Weather conditions also impacted the UTV class, with entries taking nearly 50 percent double the time it normally would under better weather and track conditions.

Here’s the Stage 12 results, as well as updated overall rankings:

  1. Brazil’s Reinaldo Varela, Can-Am, 9:27:12
  2. France’s Claude Fournier, Polaris, 9:38:54
  3. Spain’s Jose Pena Campos, Polaris, 9:45:27
  4. France’s Patricie Garrouste, Polaris, 9:46:06
  5. Italy’s Camelia Liparoti, Yamaha, 11:02:48

OVERALL 

  1. Brazil’s Reinaldo Varela
  2. France’s Patricie Garroueste, 1:03:27 behind
  3. Spain’s Jose Pena Campos, 9:04:40 behind
  4. France’s Claude Fournier, 9:08:34 behind
  5. Italy’s Camelia Liparoti, 25:39:34 behind

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FRIDAY’S SCHEDULE

Stage 13 takes place Friday, going from San Juan to Cordoba, Argentina

After Friday, just one stage remains in the 2018 Dakar Rally on Saturday, when champions in all five classes will be crowned.

MORE: Dakar Rally daily stages schedule, NBCSN broadcast schedule, list of all competitors.

MORE: Stage 11 wrapup

MORE: Stage 10 wrapup

MORE: Stage 9 cancelled due to weather, impassible course conditions

MORE: Stage 8 wrapup

MORE: Stage 7 wrapup

MORE: Stage 6 wrapup

MORE: Stage 5 wrapup

MORE: Stage 4 wrapup

MORE: Stage 3 wrapup

MORE: Stage 2 wrapup

MORE: Stage 1 wrapup

MRTI: Toronto digest

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Last year’s visit to the streets of Toronto for the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires proved to be a pivotal point in the championship chase that year.

Kyle Kaiser swept both races in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, and doing so gave him firm control over the championship, and he all but clinched it ahead of the season finale at Watkins Glen – Kaiser needed to only start that event to wrap up the title.

And in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, while Parker Thompson swept the weekend, Oliver Askew was caught up in a crash in Race 2. Combine that with a second place finish from 2017 title rival Rinus VeeKay – VeeKay also finished third in Race 1 – and it kept the championship within reach of VeeKay, who took it all the way to the finale at The Glen.

The 2018 visit north of the border will likely be remembered for a similar impact on the MRTI championships, both in Indy Lights and USF2000 and, maybe most significantly, in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires.

A look at big stories to emerge from a wild weekend on the streets of Toronto is below.

Indy Lights

Santi Urrutia scored a much needed win in Race 2 on the streets of Toronto. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
  • Santi Urrutia’s championship hopes were teetering entering the weekend – he was 49 points out of the lead and had been vastly overshadowed by title combatants Pato O’Ward and Colton Herta for most of the season. But, his Race 2 victory combined with a second place in Race 1 to close him to within 40 points of O’Ward for the championship lead. He’s still a bit of a long shot, but his chances look much brighter leaving Toronto than they did entering.
  • More significantly, Colton Herta’s title hopes may have taken an enormous hit. After crashing in Race 1 qualifying, just after grabbing the pole as well, Herta suffered a thumb fracture that he aggravated again after crashing during Race 1. It forced the team to recommend Herta essentially sit out Race 2 – he pulled off after running only a couple laps and finished sixth – and he dropped to 18 points behind O’Ward, who won Race 1 and finished second in Race 2. The margin is hardly a commanding one for O’Ward, but with the next stop at the ultra-physical Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Herta’s injured hand could remain a factor in the coming races and allow O’Ward to widen the margin.
  • One can’t help but feel bad for Victor Franzoni. Coming off the high of winning his first Indy Lights Race at Road America, Franzoni’s season took a turn for the worse. He crashed in Race 1 and then pulled off in Race 2 in order to conserve finances and resources – Franzoni detailed afterward that the budget is tight for him this year and crash damage from Race 1 does him no good. It would be a genuine shame if Franzoni’s season was derailed by funding issues, as the likeable Brazilian has made great progress all year and has the potential to make it as a Verizon IndyCar Series driver. He just needs the backing to get there.

Pro Mazda

Rinus VeeKay now trails Parker Thompson by only seven points in the Pro Mazda championship. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
  • No Mazda Road to Indy Championship was shaken up as much as Pro Mazda. Parker Thompson entered the weekend with a sizeable lead of 46 points over Rinus VeeKay. He exits the weekend only seven points ahead after finishes of eighth in both races – he was involved in a crash in Race 1 and made an unscheduled pit stop after thinking he suffered suspension damage in Race 2. Meanwhile, VeeKay dominated the weekend, winning from the pole in both races. It all means that what was once looking like a possible runaway has been all but reset. And we might see a genuine duel between them all the way to the season finale at Portland International Raceway.
  • There are few words to describe the relief everyone felt in seeing Harrison Scott walk away unhurt after his frightening airborne crash in Race 1. This was the first major crash test in a race for the Tatuus PM-18, and it aced it. And big kudos should also be given to the AMR Safety Team, who were already tending to Scott barely a few seconds after his car had come to a rest. Scott did start Race 2, but pulled off with a mechanical problem…which seems minor in comparison to what could have happened in Race 1.
  • Oliver Askew had his best race of the year in Race 2, finishing second to VeeKay for his second podium of the season. It’s been a tough year for Askew and Cape Motorsports after winning last year’s USF2000 title, and getting a podium under their belt could be just what they needed heading into the season’s stretch run.

USF2000

Kyle Kirkwood continued his USF2000 dominance on the streets of Toronto. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
  • After another weekend sweep, Kyle Kirkwood has one hand on the USF2000 championship. He leads Kaylen Frederick by a staggering 131 points – that’s over four road course races worth of points. He may well leave Mid-Ohio as the USF2000 champion. And even if he doesn’t, it would take something unheard of to keep the championship from his grasp.
  • Kaylen Frederick sits second, only three points up on Igor Fraga. Fraga had his best race since Race 2 on the streets of St. Petersburg, when he finished second, and he nearly outdueled Kirkwood for the win in Race 2. Both he and Frederick have caught fire of late, and their battle for second is very evenly matched.
  • Don’t count out Rasmus Lindh in the battle for second in the championship either. The Swedish driver is seven points behind Frederick and scored his third podium of the year by finishing third in Race 2 at Toronto. Second is well within his reach.

The Mazda Road to Indy is off this weekend before heading to Mid-Ohio, where Indy Lights and USF2000 again have double headers, while Pro Mazda will enjoy a triple header.

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