Dakar Stage 6 Highlights: Sebastien Loeb capatilizes on Al-Attiyah mistake

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Nasser Al-Attiyah made a rare mistake nine miles from the end of Stage 6 of the Dakar Rally and handed the win over to Sebastien Loeb.

Looking for a waypoint, Al-Attiyah drove into the wrong valley, which allowed Loeb to get to the end of the stage 2:17 ahead of the class leader.

“We did a great job all day long, but we made a blunder in the final 15 kilometres,” Al-Attiyah said at Dakar.com. “We went down the wrong valley, and then it took us a long time to backtrack and get back on the right track. It cost us several minutes, but I’m still happy with our position. It was a good performance, even though I know Sébastien is fighting and I’ll have to battle hard. It’s not really that comfortable, but it’s good to have this very difficult stage behind us.”

Here are some of the other highlights:

In the cars class, Sebastien Loeb’s stage victory came after he passed the spot where he crashed last year. … Nasser Al-Attiyah’s rare mistake was not enough to cost him the class lead; he holds it by more than 37 minutes over Loeb. … Carlos Sainz finished third in the stage, but remains more than five hours behind the leader in 11th. … Stephane Peterhansel lost nearly 17 minutes to Al-Attiyah and finished sixth in the stage. His time was lost when he stopped to render assistance to Cyril Despres and got stuck himself.

Class Leaders: Al-Attiyah holds an advantage of 37:43 over Loeb and 41:14 over Peterhansel

In motorcycles, Pablos Quintanilla became the sixth different rider to win one of the first six stages. … Kevin Benavides scored his second stage podium with a rally-best second-place finish. … Matthias Walkner rounded out the top three. … Toby Price protected his position of third in the class rankings by finishing fourth in the stage. … Ricky Brabec lost 7:30 to the class leader Quintanilla. … Sam Sunderland was first on the course and lost his way. He also his rear brake and almost 23 minutes before finding his way home. … Skylar Howes scored his first Dakar stage top 10 in Stage 5, but was injured in the dunes and forced to retire while running in the top 20 in class.

Class Leaders: Quintanilla holds an advantage of 4:38 over Brabec and 5:17 over Price

In side by sides Francisco Lopez Contardo became the first rider to score two stage wins; his first came in Stage 2. … Gerard Farres Guell finished 12:31 off the pace, while Casey Currie scored his first podium finish of the rally. … Second in the class rankings, Sergei Kariakin finished in fourth.

Class Leaders: Guell holds an advantage of 13:31 over Kariakin and 32:36 over Varela

In quads, Nicolas Cavigliasso’s dominance continued with his fifth stage win. Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli lost 17:19 and now trails by more than one hour. … Manuel Andujar scored his first podium of the rally.

Class Leaders: Cavigliasso holds an advantage of one hours, 6:49 over Ferioli and one hour, 30:36 over Gustavo Gallego

In trucks, Dmitry Sotnikov scored his first stage win of the season by 21:09 over Gerard de Rooy … Federico Villagra rounded out the top three. … … Eduard Nikolaev finished just off the podium in fourth, but maintained the class lead.

Class Leaders: Nikolaev holds an advantage of 10:13 over Sotnikov and 1 hour, 50:03 over De Rooy

Stage Wins

Motorcycles
Joan Barreda [1] (Stage 1), Matthias Walkner [1] (Stage 2), Xavier de Soultrait [1] (Stage 3), Ricky Brabec [1] (Stage 4), Sam Sunderland [1] (Stage 5) and Pablo Quintanilla [1] (Stage 6)

Quads
Nicolas Cavigliasso [5] (Stage 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6) and Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli [1] (Stage 3)

Cars
Sebastien Loeb [3] (Stage 2, 5 and 6), Nasser Al-Attiyah [2] (Stage 1 and 4) and Stephane Peterhansel [1] (Stage 3)

Side-by-sides
Francisco Lopez Contardo [2] (Stage 2 and 6), Reinaldo Varela [1] (Stage 1), 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), Andrey Karginov [2] (Stage 3 and 4) and Dmitry Sotnikov [1] (Stage 6)

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

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James Hinchcliffe on Andretti: ‘It’s certainly the place I want to be’

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Since before the start of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, James Hinchcliffe tirelessly has worked to ensure the future would include a full-time return in 2021.

And with an opportunity to run the final three races this season with Andretti Autosport, there seems a surefire (albeit unlikely) path.

“If I go out and win all three,” Hinchcliffe joked with IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview Friday (watch the video above), “it would be hard for them to say no, right?”

Regardless of whether he can go unbeaten at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course next weekend or the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida (where he earned his first career win in 2013), Hinchcliffe will have the chance to improve his stock with the team that he knows well and now has an opening among its five cars for 2021.

All three of Hinchcliffe’s starts this season — the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, July 4 at the IMS road course and the Indianapolis 500 — were with Andretti, where he ran full time in IndyCar from 2012-14.

“Obviously, the plan from January 2020 was already working on ’21 and trying to be in a full-time program,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed being reunited with Andretti Autosport, and everybody there has been so supportive. It’s been a very fun year for me on track. It’s been kind of a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways.

“It’s certainly the place I want to be moving forward. We’ve been working on that, working on those conversations. Genesys has been an incredible partner in my three races. We’ll be representing Gainbridge primarily, but Genesys will still have a position on our car in the last three.”

Gainbridge is the primary sponsor of the No. 26 Dallara-Honda that was vacated by Zach Veach, who left the team after it was determined he wouldn’t return in 2021. Hinchcliffe can empathize having lost his ride with Arrow McLaren SP after last season with a year left on his deal.

“You never want to earn a ride at the expense of somebody else in the sense that has happened here with Zach,” Hinchcliffe said. “I feel bad that he’s not able to see out the last three races of his season. I’ve got a lot of respect for him off track. He’s been a teammate this year, a colleague for years before that and honestly a friend for years before that. I’ve got a lot of time for him and his family. I understand a little bit of what it’s like in that position and what he’s going through.”

Hinchcliffe is ready to seize the moment, though, starting with the Oct. 2-3 doubleheader race weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He had been hoping to add the Harvest Indy Grand Prix to his schedule and had been working out for the possibility.

“Then last week I had given up hope (and) was resigned that wasn’t happening,” he said. “I told my trainer, ‘I think we’re done for this year.’ Three days later, this call comes. I’m glad we didn’t make that decision too early. I feel great physically.

“I look at it as a great opportunity to continue to show I’ve still got what it takes and should be there hopefully full time next year on the grid.”

Watch Hinchliffe’s video with Leigh Diffey above or by clicking here.