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DAKAR RALLY

LOEB ON THE MARCH

Another day, another Dakar Rally stage victory for nine-time WRC winner Sébastien Loebas the Frenchman continues to lead. The Peugeot man and long-time co-driver Daniel Elena shrugged off the disadvantage of opening the road with an aggressive performance that increased their cushion at the head of the race.

Despite violent storms complicating events at the Dakar, there’s no dampening the enthusiasm that Loeb is bringing to the rally. Today’s stage from Termas de Rio Hondo to Jujuy was shortened from 314km to just under 200km due to recent heavy rainfall, but Loeb took it all in his stride to make it back-to-back stage wins. Spain’s Carlos Sainz was the day’s second-fastest driver, 1m 23s behind his Peugeot team-mate. This nip and tuck battle between Loeb and Sainz was a reminder of their days as WRC team-mates at Citroën, no quarter was asked or given.

Solid performances from French pair Stéphane Peterhansel and Cyril Despres ensured all fourTeam Peugeot-Total crews scored top-10 results on the second stage.

Defending Dakar champion Nasser Al-Attiyah was third-fastest on the route to Jujuy with South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers one place behind the Qatari. Polish Red Bull-backed drivers Adam Malysz, Kuba Przygonski and Marek Dabrowski are all off to steady starts with another round of results inside the top 25.

Joan ‘Bang Bang’ Barreda followed up his prologue stage win with today’s quickest time in the bike race. The 15th stage win of the Spaniard’s Dakar career propels him to the top of the overall classification. Dakar debutant Antoine Méo also enjoyed himself on the stage with a magnificent fourth place.

Méo’s Red Bull KTM Rally Team colleagues Matthias Walkner, Toby Price and Jordi Viladoms all slipped down the rankings on this stage. The talented trio will be out to make up lost time as the two-day marathon stage gets underway tomorrow. Fellow KTM rider Iván Cervantes continues to impress during his first Dakar with 20th place today, just 10 seconds behind Hélder Rodrigues.

In the quad category Chile’s Ignacio Casale missed out on a third consecutive stage win by four seconds as Brian Baragwanath of South Africa beat him to the line. Argentinian quad bikerMarcos Patronelli was fifth on the stage while Qatar’s Mohamed Abu Issa narrowly missed out on the top 10 with his 11th place finish.

It was another frustrating day for truck competitors at the Dakar as their race fell victim to the weather once again. A landslide on their route led to an already shortened stage being cut back by a further 100km. The four trucks of Team Kamaz Master toiled in the testing conditions and are hopeful of improved forecasts for the following stage’s 419km timed special section.

For cars, bikes and quads tomorrow brings the first part of a two-day marathon stage. This means that after completing a 429km loop around Jujuy in northern Argentina the crews will be left to fend for themselves overnight. Mechanics and engineers are barred from entering the marathon bivouac so any repairs must be carried out by the competitors themselves

DAKAR RALLY

LOEB IN THE LEAD

With nearly 400km of competitive racing now completed at the 2016 Dakar Rally, motorsport’s toughest test of endurance is truly underway once more. Competitors were able to release the tension built up during a stop-start opening to the Dakar and it was the Red Bull Desert Wings that left the biggest impression on the day’s results.

Making a splash on the rain affected course was Dakar debutant Sébastien Loeb as he flew through the 387km stage in a time of 3h 45m 46s. The Frenchman and his Monegasque co-driver Daniel Elena have wasted no time in repaying the faith shown in them by Team Peugeot-Total; they hold the race’s overall lead overnight. Today’s Dakar destination of Termas de Rio Hondo has proven a happy hunting ground for Loeb before, he won a World Touring Car Championship race here last March.

Loeb’s countryman Stéphane Peterhansel is up to second in the general classification after the 11-time Dakar winner put in a solid display while fellow PEUGEOT 2008DKR16 driver Cyril Despres holds seventh place. Carlos Sainz, the fourth member of the Peugeot convey, lost 12 minutes due to engine-related trouble midway through the stage but recovered to stay within view of Loeb on the leaderboard.

South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers kept the nose of his Toyota Hilux as clean as he possibly could given the muddy conditions to post the day’s fourth best time. Defending Dakar championNasser Al-Attiyah gave up four minutes on Loeb due to time spent stuck in the mud and also a puncture to fix, but is well placed to attack tomorrow.

Elsewhere there were steady days for Polish Red Bull-backed drivers Adam Malysz, KubaPrzygonski and Marek Dabrowski as they arrived at the Termas de Rio Hondo bivouac in the top 25 overall.

There was also a Desert Wings stage win to celebrate over in the bike race as Toby Price of theRed Bull KTM Factory Team set the pace. The Australian rider covered the 354km bike stage in an impressive 03h 46m 24s to crush the idea that his podium finish last year was anything to do with beginner’s luck. Price’s KTM team-mate Matthias Walkner put in another great performance to sit fifth overall, less than two minutes behind Price in the overall standings.

Prologue stage winner Joan ‘Bang Bang’ Barreda now lies one place behind Walkner while Portugal’s Hélder Rodrigues has slipped to 15th in the general classification. It was a mixed bag for first timers Iván Cervantes of Spain and Antoine Méo of France. Cervantes is two-seconds ahead of Rodrigues while Méo will continue his Dakar education nearly half an hour behind the Iberian pair for now.

The new week got started with great news for the Dakar truck crews as their race finally commenced. Team Kamaz Master enjoyed a steady opening day of action with their three former Dakar champions – Ayrat Mardeev, Eduard Nikolaev and Andrey Karginov – all placing in the top 10 and within touching distance of early leader Hans Stacey. The fourth Kamaz truck, driven by Dmitry Sotnikov, is just a little further back in 13th overall.

The quad race saw Chile’s Ignacio Casale extend his lead over proceedings. Argentine Marcos Patronelli suffered a cracked exhaust pipe on the stage and now sits 06m 37s behind the leader with Qatar’s Mohamed Abu Issa 13m 10s off the summit.

This edition of the Dakar is now fully in gear and has already delivered three stage wins by the Red Bull Desert Wings. Thoughts turn to tomorrow’s action when competitors will be tasked with rocking and rolling along mountain tracks on the route to Jujuy, as a further 314km of timed racing awaits.

DAKAR RALLY

DAKAR’S FIRST STAGE WASHED OUT

The action may have stalled on the second day of the 2016 Dakar Rally, but that did not mean the day was without challenges for the competitors signed up for the world’s toughest race. While there was no racing against the clock, a route in excess of 500km between Rosario and Villa Carlos Paz still had to be completed amid torrid weather conditions.

After first delaying the start of the timed special stage, the decision was eventually taken by race organisers to cancel today’s racing completely. Heavy downpours accompanied violent thunderstorms in the region and swollen rivers meant that entire sections of the proposed track were deemed to dangerous to cross. In addition to hazardous conditions on the course, the storms also dictated that the safety helicopters which support the race had to stay grounded.

Today’s test for the bikers and quad riders was not about speed but simply about survival. After setting off at 4am this morning from Rosario they were out on the road in treacherous conditions for 10 hours before arriving at the bivouac in Villa Carlos Paz. An unchanged leaderboard was the furthest thing from their minds as they peeled themselves out of their soaked racing overalls.

Quad bike contender Mohamed Abu Issa of Qatar admitted that things got so bad out on the road that he considered quitting the race. Spain’s bike race leader Joan ‘Bang Bang’ Barredawas in no doubt that the organisers made the right decision calling off the stage.

It was also a long and tiring day for the Dakar’s car and truck crews, even if they could rely on protection from the elements inside their vehicles.

Defending car race champion Nasser Al-Attiyah managed to find the positives in an otherwise disappointing day. The Qatari will drive the fourth car to start tomorrow’s stage and is well placed to set the day’s fastest time.

The hope inside the bivouac is that the rainstorms will blow over soon so the racing can really begin at this edition of the Dakar on Monday. With around 500km of timed competition planned for all four categories tomorrow, the forecast for top class offroad racing on the route to Termas de Rio Hondo remains optimistic.

DAKAR RALLY

DAKAR RALLY DAY ONE

The 38th edition of the Dakar Rally got underway with a fast-paced opening stage. In action on the first day were the Red Bull Desert Wings competitors as they posted impressive results across all four categories.

Nasser Al-Attiyah got the defence of his Dakar title underway with a fourth place finish on the stage. A steady drive alongside French co-driver Mathieu Baumel ensured the Qatari finished just five seconds off stage winner Bernhard ten Brinke.

Peugeot Sport director Bruno Famin was also satisfied by the day’s work of his four crews on the sprint stage on the outskirts of Arrecifes, a town in the north of the Greater Buenos Aires province. Spaniard Carlos Sainz clocked the stage’s second-fastest time while his trio of French team-mates Cyril Despres, Stéphane Peterhansel and Sébastien Loeb all finished exactly nine seconds off the race’s early leader. A top-10 finish for Loeb and co-driver Daniel Elena on their first Dakar stage shows that the nine-time WRC winners are up for the fight.

The Toyotas of Marek Dabrowski and Giniel de Villiers recorded very similar times to the Peugeot crews while the two Polish driven MINIs of Adam Malysz and Kuba Prygonski stayed within half a minute of ten Brinke.

Over in the bike race all of the riders harbouring realistic ambitions of glory made a solid start with Honda’s Joan ‘Bang Bang’ Barreda sharing the stage win with Ruben Faria. The third quickest time of the day was recorded by Portugal’s Hélder Rodrigues and his Yamaha.

The four Red Bull KTM Factory Team riders reached the finish line well within reach of the early leaders. Jordi Viladoms, Matthias Walkner and Toby Price are within 20 seconds of Barreda while France’s Antoine Méo and fellow debutant Iván Cervantes of Spain, also onboard KTM machinery, will be happy to have survived their first day of racing at the Dakar. Méo lost 45 seconds underestimating his first Dakar river crossing, as his rally raid education continues.

Argentina’s Marcos Patronelli completed the quad stage with the second-fastest time of the day. Also in close attendance at the front of the race was Mohamed Abu Issa, as he stayed within 30 seconds of Marcos to underline his own credentials as a serious contender in 2016.

As a result of a serious accident during the prologue the timed section was cancelled for the trucks.

Today’s results on the prologue stage now shape the starting order for tomorrow’s stage running between Rosario and Villa Carlos Paz. With competitors fully in gear the distances rocket up, with around 250km of timed racing for all four categories on Sunday across some of the race’s fastest terrain.

DAKAR

AWAITING THE START OF THE DAKAR 2016 RALLY

It takes an entire year to prepare for the toughest race on the planet – and finally the wait is over as the bravest petrolheads in the world rev up their engines on the start line of the 2016 Dakar Rally. Among the 556 competitors signed up for the gruelling two-week challenge in South America are the Red Bull Desert Wings squad. Ranging from battled-hardened veterans to wide-eyed rookies, the Desert Wings are aiming for the top prize in all four categories at this year’s desert classic.

As the various crews arrived in Buenos Aires during the final days of 2015 to complete the necessary pre-race scrutineering checks, the most relaxed customer was undoubtedly Nasser Al-Attiyah. The reigning champion returns with co-driver Mathieu Baumel and the MINI that has accompanied them on a serial winning streak, which started in South America 12 months ago.

Also racing MINIs this time round will be Red Bull-backed Polish drivers Adam Malysz andKuba Przygonski, accompanied by Xavier Panseri and Andrei Rudnitski respectively. Adam, a multiple Ski Jump World Cup winner, is back for his fifth Dakar while Kuba is on four wheels for the first time after successfully completing the bike race five times, including a pair of top-10 finishes.

Team Peugeot-Total have a new car and some fresh faces as they return to the race following a mixed bag of results last time out. Sébastien Loeb has joined the ranks of motorsport royalty thanks to his nine consecutive World Rally Championship titles, and there’s plenty of intrigue surrounding his first attempt at the Dakar. Sébastien takes the wheel of his PEUGEOT 2008DKR16 alongside long-standing co-driver Daniel Elena. Elsewhere in Peugeot’s stellar line-up are three crews with 17 Dakar victories between them: Stéphane Peterhansel/Jean-Paul Cottret, Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz and Cyril Despres/David Castera.

Looking to nudge past both the Peugeot and MINI challengers will be the Toyota Hiluxes ofGiniel de Villiers and Marek Dabrowski. Giniel, along with co-driver Dirk Von Zitzewitz, is a former Dakar champion and has also claimed three second-place finishes in the past five editions of the race. Marek and his right-hand man Jacek Czachor were the best-placed rookies with seventh place at the 2014 Dakar, and once again have their sights on the top 10.

FORMULA MSA

WON GOAL. FORMULA ONE!

Success breeds success. That seems to be the case in the young life and fast times of F1Weekly friend, Enaam Ahmed. In 2014, at the age of 14, he won five junior karting titles with Ricky Flynn Motorsports, including the European and World Karting Championships. This achievement put him a year ahead of a certain Lewis Hamilton who was 15 when he triumphed in the 2000 European and World karting championships.

The newly launched Formula MSA, with backing and blessings of the FIA, was Enaam’s stomping ground in 2015. After a challenging first half of the season, Enaam began the push to the front. His reward was the Rookie of the Year title and the season finale at the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit, located in beautiful Kent countryside, saw Enaam take his first win of the season in the UK-based series.

Going places.

The FIA initiative to provide a decent budget single-seater championship for young drivers graduating from karts to cars has seen the launch of Formula 4 in major motorsports market. In continental Europe, the Italian F4 was launched last year and, apart from the UK Formula MSA, the 2015 season also saw the launch of the German F4 and the NEZ F4 championship, the latter catering to Nordic, Baltic and Russian markets.

Enaam sampled some of the rounds in the NEZ category. Highlight of his overseas campaign was winning all three races in the final round at Parnu, Estonia.

Forward looking statement

In preparation for the 2016 season, the London lad recently took part in the Spanish F4 Winter series. The two round series held three races at Jerez de la Frontera, (Dec. 4-6)famous for the 1986 last lap duel that ended in one of the closest finishes in F1grand prix racing history (Senna vs Mansell), and three races at the beautiful Portimao circuit (Dec. 11-13) in Algarve, Portugal.

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In the opening round Enaam was on the podium in all three races, a pair of third and a second place finish in the second race of the weekend. Making the job very hard to grab the championship prize of EU 75,000 was the fact that all three races of the Spanish round were won by the more experienced 17-year old Finn Simo Laaksonen.

The reign in Spain may have shined on Simo but the tide and weather was turning in Portugal after Enaam won the opening race of weekend after leading from start to finish. He was about half a second faster in every wet practice session

Enaam raced to another dominant win in the second race, his chances of winning the rich prize, unheard of in entry-level racing, were boosted as Laaksonen was eliminated early in the race after colliding with Canadian Devlin Defrancessco. Enaam’s victory slipped to second place finish after he was given a five second penalty for not slowing down sufficiently under a yellow flag. The penalty left him with only one point ahead of Laaksonen going into the crucial and final race of the winter series.

The one point lead came with excess baggage. Laaksonen’s early exit in race two meant he had better tires for the EU75k grab fest. When the lights went out, it was game on for the two young combatants. Enaam shot into the lead at the start and held the Finn at bay, but on lap 9 Laaksonen went ahead. This turned out to be short lived as Enaam went on the outside at turn 10 to regain the lead.

The Winter Series Champion in his own words; “That was the hardest race of my life! Laaksonens tires were so much better so I knew I would have to defend hard. Fair play to Simo, he gave me racing room, and it was a very fair fight

“I have to thank Koiranen GP for this opportunity….where else do you win prize money like this?! It’s awesome! I also have to thank my dad and the guys at Edge management for helping and guiding me to this win.”