Dakar Stage 4 Highlights: Ricky Brabec wins stage, takes lead

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Ricky Brabec lost his way on Wednesday in Stage 3 of the Dakar Rally. Finishing 12th in that stage cost him and he was ranked seventh in the overall standings, but Brabec came roaring back in Stage 4. He won his first stage of the year by a margin of six minutes, 19 seconds over Matthias Walkner.

“I needed it,” Brabec said at Dakar.com. “Yesterday was tough on me and I lost a lot of time. Today I really, really needed to push with the marathon night and motocross start tomorrow. It kind of helps me because tomorrow I can kind of just hang back and have the stage under my control and finish where I want. With the motocross start it makes it easy to manage.”

Robby Gordon and his Team Speed teammates were originally listed as failing to start Stage 4 due to a clerical error. Gordon completed the stage 40th with a time of six hours, 28 minutes and 38 seconds. Blade Hildebrand is also still running. The third teammate Cole Potts is not racing in Stage 5, but is eligible to return.

Here are some of the other highlights:

In the cars class, Nasser Al-Attiyah has won at least two stages in nine of the past 10 Dakars. … Stephane Peterhansel finished close behind, but lost another 1:52 to the overall leader. … Jakub Przygonski rounded out the top three. … Sebastian Loeb suffered three punctures on the stage and was riding on a deflated tire at the end in fifth place. He lost 12:23 on the stage and now trails the overall leader Al-Attiyah by 50 minutes.

Overall: Al-Attiyah holds an advantage of 8:55 over Peterhansel and 20:51 over Nani Roma

In motorcycles, Ricky Brabec made up all the ground he lost in the last stage plus a lot more to win. … Matthias Walkner fell 6:19 behind with Toby Price ending the stage 7:07 back. … Sam Sunderland took a fall in the rock and lost 13:35 to Brabec, but still managed to finish fifth. … Pablo Quintanilla had a tough outing and finished 14th on the stage.

Overall: Ricky Brabec holds an advantage of 2:19 over Quintanilla and 4:22 over Price.

In side by sides Sergei Kariakin keeps improving. After finishing eighth in Stage 1, he has stood on the podium in each successive stage with thirds in Stage 2 and 3. This is his first win of the season. … Rodrigo Piazzoli and Gerard Farres Guell round out the top three. … Casey Currie had navigation issues and a puncture before finishing ninth in the stage.

Overall: Kariakin holds an advantage of 11:26 over Guell and 30:00 over Piazolli

In quads, Nicolas Cavigliasso won his third stage of the year and has not finished worse than second so far in 2019. … Twenty-three year old Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli finished second to score his third podium of the year. … Alexandre Giroud rounded out the top three.

Overall: Cavigliasso holds an advantage of 1:00 over Ferioli and 2:00 over Gustavo Gallego

In trucks, Andrey Karginov got off to a slow start with a sixth-place finish in Stage 1 and a seventh the following day; he’s won the last two stages to make up for that and sits second in the overall rankings. … Martin Macik and Airat Mardeev round out the top three. … Overall leader Eduard Nikolaev finished fifth in the stage and gave up more than 13 minutes to his closest challenger Karginov. … After a spectacular crash yesterday, Siarhei Viazovich powered on to finish fourth in the stage.

Overall: Nikolaev holds and advantage of 4:58 over Karginov and 8:39 over Dmitry Sotnikov

Stage Wins

Motorcycles
Joan Barreda [1] (Stage 1), Matthias Walkner [1] (Stage 2), Xavier de Soultrait [1] (Stage 3) and Ricky Brabec [1] (Stage 4)

Quads
Nicolas Cavigliasso [3] (Stage 1, 2 and 4) and Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli [1] (Stage 3)

Cars
Nasser Al-Attiyah [2] (Stage 1 and 4), Sebastien Loeb [1] (Stage 2) and Stephane Peterhansel [1] (Stage 3)

Side-by-sides
Reinaldo Varela [1] (Stage 1), Francisco Lopez Contardo [1] (Stage 2), Gerard Farres Guell [1] (Stage 3) and Sergei Kariakin [1] (Stage 4)

Trucks
Eduard Nikolaev [2] (Stage 1 and 2) and Andrey Karginov [2] (Stage 3 and 4)

For more watch the daily highlight show on NBCSN. Click here for the complete schedule.

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F1 tests: Mercedes innovates with wheel adjustment system

Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images
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MONTMELÓ, Spain — Veteran Kimi Raikkonen set the fastest time on the second day of Formula One preseason testing on Thursday, but Mercedes still garnered more attention by introducing an innovative wheel adjustment system.

On-board footage showed defending champion Lewis Hamilton pulling the steering wheel back and forth on the front straight to apparently change the angle of the front wheels on his Mercedes car.

The team stayed tight-lipped about the car’s new feature but guaranteed it was “safe” and “legal.”

“I probably won’t shed a great deal more light than what you saw on the TV but yeah we have a system in the car, it’s a novel idea,” team technical director James Allison told F1 TV. ”We’ve got a name for it, it’s called DAS, if you’re interested, and it just introduces an extra dimension for the steering, for the driver, which we hope will be useful during the year. But precisely how we use it and why we use it, that’s something we will keep to ourselves.”

Allison said governing body FIA knew in advance that the team was introducing the new system.

“It’s something we’ve been talking to them (about) for some time,” he said. “The rules are pretty clear about what’s permitted on steering systems and we’re pretty confident that it matches those requirements. I’m pleased we got it on the car, it seems to be useful, and we’ll see over the coming days how it benefits us.”

Hamilton said he was still trying to get used to the system, but praised the team for coming up with the innovation.

“I’ve only had one morning on (it, so) I don’t really have a lot to talk about with it. We’re trying to get on top of it, understand it, but safety-wise no problem today and the FIA are OK with the project.

“For me it’s really encouraging to see that my team is continuing to innovate and stay ahead of the game, and I think that’s down to the great minds in the team and so hopefully that’ll work to our benefit.”

Hamilton led the time charts on Wednesday but was only ninth-fastest on Thursday.

MORE: Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas fastest in Day 1 of F1 practice
MORE: Sergio Perez fastest early on Day 2 of F1 Practice

The 40-year-old Raikkonen, who has a chance this season to break the record for most race starts in F1, was fastest with a time of 1 minute, 17.091 seconds in his Alfa Romea. He was 0.2 seconds quicker than Sergio Pérez with Racing Point. Daniel Ricciardo of Renault was third.

Raikkonen caused a red flag near the end of the afternoon session when his car stopped on the track with an apparent mechanical issue. The Finnish driver had spun earlier in the session, as did Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes, Romain Grosjean of Haas and Pierre Gasly of Alpha Tauri, formerly known as Toro Rosso.

Grosjean had the most laps among the 13 drivers who went to the track on Thursday, with 158.

Bottas was the slowest driver of the day, while Sebastian Vettel was sixth-fastest with Ferrari.

Pérez had set the quickest time in the morning session. The Mexican driver had been third fastest on Wednesday, behind Hamilton and Bottas.

Drivers will be back on the track on Friday to close out the first week of testing. Teams will have another three days to test next week.

Preseason testing has been reduced from eight to six days to help compensate for the record 22 races on the calendar, including a new Vietnam Grand Prix and the return of the Dutch GP. Midseason testing also has been eliminated.

The season opens on March 15 at the Australian GP.

The Barcelona-Catalunya track will host the Spanish GP on May 10.