Dakar Stage 9 Highlights: Al-Attiyah, Price close in on victory

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As the rally winds down, leaders Nasser Al-Attiyah in cars and Toby Price in motorcycles are one strong stage away from class victories in the 2019 Dakar Rally.

Stephane Peterhansel retired from the rally 26 kilometers into Stage 8 when his navigator David Castera hurt his back. It is the first time in 10 years that Peterhansel has retired and only the fourth time in 31 years.

Here are some of the other highlights:

In the cars class, Nasser Al-Attiyah all but sealed his third Dakar Rally victory with a stage win. He padded his lead by nearly five minutes and leads the field by 51 minutes. … Nani Roma finished second on the stage. … Giniel de Villiers scored his first podium finish of the rally in third. … Sebastien Loeb entered the stage as one of two drivers who could possibly challenge Al-Attiyah, but a broken transmission removed that potential. … Cyril Despres was 20 kilometers away from the stage win until he rolled his car near the end. He finished eighth, 39 minutes behind.

“I think we were doing a really good stage, pushing hard from the start, but at kilometer 250 or something like this we had a broken transmission,” Loeb said at Dakar.com. “We had to change it, it’s quite tough to do, but we have a spare one, so we changed it. Maybe we made a little mistake, we lost a lot of time trying to put a clips. Finally, we decided to go like this and it broke again, so we had to wait for Pierre [Lachaume] to give us his spare transmission. We changed it again, [it took] a long time and now we’re here. That’s just the way it is.

Class Leaders: Al-Attiyah holds an advantage of 51:27 over Roma and two hour, 02:37 over Loeb.

In motorcycles, Michael Metge became the seventh different rider to win one of the first nine stages. … Daniel Nosiglia Jager also stood on the podium for the first time in 2019; previously, his best performance was 13th in Stage 8. … Pablo Quintanilla rounded out the top three. … Toby Price finished fifth and maintained the class lead.

Class Leaders: Price holds a narrow advantage over Quintanilla by 1:02 and 6:35 over Matthias Walkner.

In side by sides, Reinaldo Varela his second stage win – having waited since Stage 1 to get it. … Gerard Farres Guell finished second to stand on the podium six times this year. … Class leader Francisco Lopez Contardo rounded out the top three.

Class Leaders: Contardo holds an advantage 0f 59:46 over Guell and one hour, 11:29 over Varela

In quads, With his eighth win in nine stages, Nicolas Cavigliasso remains untouchable in class. … Maneul Andujar finished just four minutes back in second. … Gustavo Gallego rounded out the top three.

Class Leaders:
Cavigliasso holds and advantage of one hour, 49:24 over Ferioli and two hours, 4:33 over Gallego

In trucks, After winning back to back stages to lead the rally, Eduard Nikolaev had to wait a long time to earn his third stage win. … He outpace Siarhei Viazovich and Dmitry Sotnikov, who entered the stage with the class lead. … Nikolaev regained the class lead with this performance.

Class Leaders: Nikolaev holds and advantage of 28:35 over Sotnikov and and one hour, 35:10 over Gerard de Rooy

Stage Wins

Motorcycles
Sam Sunderland [2] (Stage 5 and 7), Matthias Walkner [2] (Stage 2 and 8), Joan Barreda [1] (Stage 1), Xavier de Soultrait [1] (Stage 3), Ricky Brabec [1] (Stage 4), Pablo Quintanilla [1] (Stage 6) and Michael Metge [1] Stage 9

Quads
Nicolas Cavigliasso [8] (Stage 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9) and Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli [1] (Stage 3)

Cars
Sebastien Loeb [4] (Stage 2, 5, 6 and 8), Nasser Al-Attiyah [3] (Stage 1, 4 and 9) and Stephane Peterhansel [2] (Stage 3 and 7)

Side-by-sides
Francisco Lopez Contardo [4] (Stage 2, 6, 7 and 8), Reinaldo Varela [2] (Stage 1 and 9), Gerard Farres Guell [1] (Stage 3), Sergei Kariakin [1] (Stage 4) and Rodrigo Piazzoli [1] (Stage 5)

Trucks
Eduard Nikolaev [4] (Stage 1, 2, 5 and 9), Andrey Karginov [2] (Stage 3 and 4), Dmitry Sotnikov [2] (Stage 6 and 8) and Gerard de Rooy [1] (Stage 7)

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.