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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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.