Dakar Stage 5 Highlights: Sebastien Loeb closes in on Dakar leaders

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With a solid showing in Stage 5 of the Dakar Rally, Sam Sunderland closed to within less than a minute behind overall leader Ricky Brabec in the motorcycle class. The overall leader Brabec finished more than six minutes off the leader’s pace.

Sebastian Loeb won the stage for the car to shave more than 10 minutes off leader Nasser Al-Attiyah’s advantage and now sits 40 minutes behind.

“It was a very good day for me,” Loeb said at Dakar.com. “We pushed really hard from the start to the end of the stage, with no mistakes, no punctures, nothing. We had a perfect day. We’ll see where we are [in the standings]. The road-book was correct today, so we didn’t make any mistakes and it was good.”

Here are some of the other highlights:

In the cars class, Sebastien Loeb proved that he is not going to be discounted in the 2019 Dakar by winning his second stage; he also won Stage 2. … Nasser Al-Attiyah gained 16 minutes on his principal rival Stephane Peterhansel. … Nani Roma rounded out the top three. … Peterhansel finished fourth on the stage.

Class Leaders: Al-Attiyah holds an advantage of 24:42 over Peterhansel and 34:33 over Roma

In motorcycles, Sam Sunderland stopped to assist Paulo Concalves and was credited with the win after 10 minutes was subtracted from his time for the assistance. … Jose Florimo finished 2:25 behind with Xavier de Soutrait rounding out the top three. … A cautious start to the stage contributed to Ricky Brabec’s 12th-place finish in the stage. He lost 6:46 to Sunderland. … Pablo Quintanilla finished 14th, 7:19 and fell to third overall.

Class Leaders: Brabec holds an advantage of 0:59 over Sunderland and 2:52 over Quintanilla

In side by sides Rodrigo Piazolli became the fifth different winning in five stages this year with a time of six hours, 33 minutes, 52 seconds. … He narrowly beat Reinaldo Varela, who was looking for his second stage win after taking the victory on day 1. … Gerard Farres Guell finished 32:42 behind the leader in third.

Class Leaders: Piazzoli holds an advantage of 1:42 over Varela and 14:08 over Guell

In quads, Nicolas Cavigliasso continued to dominate the rally with his fourth stage win. … Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli has come close on several occasions with one stage win and three runner-up finishes. … Gustavo Gallego finished third.

Class Leaders: Cavigliasso holds an advantage of 1:00 over Feriolii and 2:00 over Gallego

In trucks, After dropping back to back stages to Andrey Karginov, Eduard Nikolaev was back at the top of the leaderboard for his third stage win. …  Dmitry Sotnikov and Siarhei Viazovich rounded out the top three. … Karginov finished fourth, but was later excluded from the race.A statement from the organization of the rally stated, “At Kilometer 279 of the SS a 60-year-old man from South Africa who was watching the race in an unsecured area (outside the established spectator’s zone), was hit by a race truck (#518 Andrey Karginov). The competitor was excluded from the by the jury of commissioners for not stopping to attend to the injured spectator.”

Overall: Nikolaev holds and advantage of 11:54 over Sornikov and 16:45 over Karginov.

Stage Wins

Motorcycles
Joan Barreda [1] (Stage 1), Matthias Walkner [1] (Stage 2), Xavier de Soultrait [1] (Stage 3), Ricky Brabec [1] (Stage 4) and Sam Sunderland [1] (Stage 5)

Quads
Nicolas Cavigliasso [4] (Stage 1, 2, 4 and 5), Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli [1] (Stage 3)

Cars
Nasser Al-Attiyah [2] (Stage 1 and 4), Sebastien Loeb [2] (Stage 2 and 5) 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), Sergei Kariakin [1] (Stage 4) and Rodrigo Piazzoli [1] (Stage 5)

Trucks
Eduard Nikolaev [3] (Stage 1, 2 and 5) 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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Mario Andretti says Colton Herta could be next American star in F1

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Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.

If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.

“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”

The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.

Mario Andretti drives his Lotus-Ford to victory in the 1978 Grand Prix of the Netherlands (Bernard Cahier/Getty Images).

Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.

Scott Speed was the last American to run a full F1 season in 2006, and Alexander Rossi made the most recent F1 start by a U.S. driver in 2015. Rossi has said he has no desire to return to racing in Europe after winning the 2016 Indianapolis 500 and becoming an IndyCar championship contender.

But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.

“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.

“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”

Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.

Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.

A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.

“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.

“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”

Mario Andretti with four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton before the Nov. 22, 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).

During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:

–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;

–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;

Mario Andretti Colton Herta
Mario Andretti and Kyle Petty saluted “The King” by wearing their Richard Petty-style hats during the latest “Coffee With Kyle” (NBCSN).

–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”

–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.

“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”

Watch the full “Coffee With Kyle” episode in the video above or by clicking here.

Mario Andretti looks on before the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26, 2019 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).