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DAKAR RALLY

The stage is set for a grand finale at the 2017 Dakar Rally

The big contenders at the Dakar are ready for a race to the line © Marcelo Maragni/Flavien Duhamel/Red Bull Content Pool

The 9,000km of the 2017 Dakar Rally is coming to a close with the Buenos Aires finish line now just three days away. With racing suspended on Wednesday due to raging thunderstorms and landslides we get back underway tomorrow as the Dakar convoy heads south through Argentina.

Dakar competitors were given the chance to recharge their batteries as they travelled the 675km between Salta and Chilecito over tarmac due to the cancelation of today’s stage. This gave the guys at the front of the race the chance to devise their tactics for the final few stages of the contest.

After coming through the marathon stage with his lead intact Sam Sunderland (GBR) is breaking new ground in his Dakar career having never previously made it to the second week of the race. The Red Bull KTM Factory Team rider currently enjoys a cushion of just over 20 minutes from Pablo Quintanilla (CHL) in second place. Sunderland’s team-mate Matthias Walkner (AUT) is another rider yet to cross the finish line at his previous Dakar attempts. The Austrian biker is currently fourth overall, 34m14s behind Sunderland, and has his sights set on a podium finish.

The gaps are tighter at the head of the car race with less than two minutes separating race leader Sébastien Loeb (FRA) and his Peugeot team-mate Stéphane Perterhansel (FRA). Monsieur Rally and Monsieur Dakar will go head-to-head once again on tomorrow’s 449km timed special stage between Chilecito and San Juan. Occupying the final podium spot is Cyril Despres (FRA), also of Team Peugeot Total, as the five-time Dakar bike race winner continues to impress on four wheels.

A bittersweet Stage Eight for Team Kamaz Master allowed them take the lead of the truck race but also saw Ayrat Mardeev (RUS), 2015 winner, lose time due to getting stuck in the sand. The new name at the top of the general classification is Dmitry Sotnikov (RUS) who leads his Kamaz team-mate Eduard Nikolaev (RUS) by 1m46s. Waiting for the chance to fight back on Stage Ten is defending truck race champion Gerard De Rooy (NDL). If you’re after late fireworks then keep your eyes on these big beasts going flat out for the final few days.

A win on Stage Eight of the quad category was a signal of intent from Ignacio Casale (CHL) as he brought race leader Sergey Karyakin (RUS) into sight. With three Dakar days remaining the Chilean in third overall is a little over ten minutes behind Karyakin.

When the Dakar gets back underway tomorrow expect soaring temperatures to play their part as the racers try to retrieve their rhythm. The navigational challenges that have been a trademark of this Dakar are also back with a vengeance on the route to San Juan. With Buenos Aires now less than 2,000km away every kilometre is crucial as the gaps between glory and agony begin to close.

DAKAR RALLY

Stéphane Peterhansel puts the hammer down on the dunes © Marcelo Maragni/Red Bull Content Pool

Dakar gets back to business with a bang on epic marathon stage

The midpoint Rest Day of the 2017 Dakar Rally is already a distant memory as racers are left fending for themselves on the fringes of the world’s largest salt flat in Uyuni, Bolivia. Stage Seven is the first half of this year’s marathon stage so every competitor still in the race spends tonight separated from their mechanics and any work needed on their machines must be performed solo.

Adding to the increased difficulty that comes with a marathon stage have been the “extreme climatic conditions” we have been experiencing in Bolivia. Heavy downpours of rain have played havoc with the course and a redesigned Stage Seven gave us a timed special stage of 161km over mostly sandy terrain. Taking a vantage point of the action today was windsurfing legend Robby Naish who after touring the Rest Day bivouac got to see those same machines unleashed over open country.

Naish had a firsthand look at one of the day’s most impressive performances as Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA) upped his lead in the car category with a stage win. The 12-time Dakar champion increased his advantage over fellow Team Peugeot Total driver Sébastien Loeb (FRA) by 48 seconds with the difference between the two Frenchman in first and second overall now standing at a tantalising 1m57s.

Cyril Despres (FRA), the third PEUGEOT 3008 DKR driver, slips back to fourth overall after conceding nine minutes to Peterhansel on Stage Seven. Meanwhile, there was something to celebrate for Giniel De Villiers (ZAF) of Toyota Gazoo Racing who secured a podium finish on today’s stage behind Despres’ two Peugeot team-mates.

The bikes were first to tackle today’s route and opening the road was Sam Sunderland (GBR) of the Red Bull KTM Factory Team. Despite a navigation hiccup 38 kilometres into the special the race leader was able to recover and maintains his position at the top of the general classification overnight. Sunderland’s team-mate Matthias Walkner (AUT) is also in with a shout of a podium finish with the Austrian biker in fifth place overall. Considering neither rider has ever completed an entire Dakar Rally their achievements to date have been mightily impressive.

Elsewhere in the race, local crowds were on their feet to cheer Bolivian biker Walter Nosiglia Jager who secured a Top 10 finish on the stage in his homeland.

A podium finish on today’s quad stage has kept Ignacio Casale (CHL) in contact with race leader Sergey Karyakin (RUS). Thanks to Casale arriving in Uyuni as the third quickest quad biker he now stands 16 minutes behind Karyakin who will open the road tomorrow.

An already shortened stage was reduced by a further 20km for the truck class due to the final part of the track proving impassable even for the Dakar’s biggest beasts. Defending champion Gerard De Rooy (NLD) once again reacted well to the Team Kamaz Master trio of Eduard Nikolaev (RUS), Dmitry Sotnikov (RUS) and Ayrat Mardeev (RUS) breathing down his neck. De Rooy keeps his overall lead despite Sotnikov’s stage win who now sits second overall with Nikolaev third and Mardeev fourth.

Competitors with sound mechanical knowhow will hope to be rewarded tomorrow on the second half of the marathon stage. The timed special stage will account for 492km of the total 892km to be covered on Tuesday. For the 255 of the 318 vehicles that started the first stage in Paraguay still in the race the next challenge is to safely reach the Salta bivouac after recrossing the border into Argentina.

DAKAR RALLY

Matthias Walkner on the road to La Paz © Flavien Duhamel/Red Bull Content Pool

Active Rest Day keeps Dakar racers on their toes in La Paz

The brakes were put on the 2017 Dakar Rally today as the competitors and crews enjoyed a much needed Rest Day in La Paz. With over 4,000 kilometres already ventured through Paraguay, Argentina and Bolivia there was anticipation in the bivouac of what’s to come on the second week of the toughest test of endurance motorsport has to offer.

With no racing on Sunday the Dakar camp in Bolivia’s capital city was a hive of activity from sunrise to sunset. Mechanics and engineers worked tirelessly on the cars, bikes, trucks and quads that remain in the race.

The world’s media were also busy in La Paz as they caught up with competitors to get their take on the race so far. With Team Peugeot Total occupying all three podium positions in the car category the questions came thick and fast for Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA), Sébastien Loeb (FRA) and Cyril Despres (FRA). The French trio were happy to reflect on a solid first week of driving but also careful not to get too carried away with nearly 5,000 kilometres still to be covered.

Also looking to defend their strong position is the Red Bull KTM Factory Team who currently have Sam Sunderland (GBR) leading the bike race. Sunderland and his team-mate Matthias Walkner (AUT) are on a quest to deliver KTM their 16th consecutive Dakar win.

Team Kamaz Master are relishing their battle in the truck race with reigning champion Gerard De Rooy (NLD). With Eduard Nikolaev (RUS), Dmitry Sotnikov (RUS) and Ayrat Mardeev (RUS) all within striking distance of De Rooy we’re guaranteed plenty more drama when this contest gets back underway tomorrow.

There was also the chance today for race fans to come and have close up look at the bivouac and get a real taste of the action. One special guest having a good look around was windsurfing legend Robby Naish. The self-confessed motorhead was blown away by the scale of the operation that keeps the Dakar on the road and enjoyed a guided tour of the PEUGEOT 3008 DKR.

Tomorrow will give Naish the chance to see Peugeot’s machine as well as the rest of the Dakar convoy in action as we travel 622km to Uyuni. It’s the first half of this year’s marathon stage so competitors will be separated from their mechanics and will have to carry out any necessary repairs by themselves.

DAKAR RALLY

Torrential rainfall puts pay to Stage Six of the Dakar Rally

With much of Oruro and the surrounding area underwater this morning the Dakar Rally organisers had no choice but to cancel Stage Six. The “extreme climatic conditions” in the region saw competitor safety put first and the proposed 527-kilometre timed special stage between Oruro and La Paz called off.

Get a real sense of the torrential rain falling in Oruro and the impact it had on proceedings by watching/downloading today’s News Cut here.

Those competitors who remain in the race after a gruelling first week that has seen high-profile retirements, such as Nasser Al-Attiyah, Carlos Sainz and Toby Price, came into La Paz this afternoon. The racers were greeted by hoards of enthusiastic fans that lined the streets of the highest capital city on the planet.

Now comes a well-earned Rest Day in La Paz with racers searching for a slice of comfort after exiting the mudbath of the Oruro bivouac. Rest Day gives Dakar competitors a chance for a full service of their race vehicle, various media commitments and hopefully the chance to get some much needed shuteye.

The Rest Day also gives a chance for petrolheads such as windsurf legend Robby Naish to get an up close look at how the Dakar works. Naish is due in the La Paz bivouac on Sunday to catch up with crews such as Team Peugeot Total, the Red Bull KTM Factory Team and Team Kamaz Master. After a dramatic first week of action they’ll be no shortage of stories for the thrill-seeker to hear about.

F1Weekly podcast #717

CLARK AND NASIR REVIEW THE SECOND HALF OF THE 2016 FORMULA 1 SEASON AND SHARE THEIR HOPE AND ASPIRATIONS FOR THE 2017 SEASON

ON ANOTHER NOTE WILLIAMS MARTINI RACING CONFIRM LANCE STROLL AT THE AUTOSPORT SHOW.

Williams is delighted to announce that Lance Stroll, who will race for WILLIAMS MARTINI RACING in the 2017 Formula One World Championship, will be appearing at this year’s Autosport Show (12th – 15th January 2017, NEC, Birmingham).
The Canadian will be taking to the Autosport International stage on Saturday 14th January, whilst Deputy Team Principal Claire Williams and Head of Performance Engineering Rob Smedley will be interviewed on Sunday 15thJanuary.
Stroll, who joins Williams following a dominant championship-winning year in European Formula 3, will be on stage to discuss his thoughts ahead of his first Formula One campaign.
Williams has already announced its plans to create a unique and interactive centrepiece for the Autosport Show in celebration of its 40th anniversary in Formula One, where fans will be transported through the British team’s 40-year history.
Claire Williams, Williams Martini Racing Deputy Team Principal, said: “We are pleased to confirm that Lance Stroll and Rob Smedley will be joining our 40th anniversary celebrations at Autosport International. It’s a great opportunity for fans to hear from Lance, and meet him, before he takes to the grid for the first time in Australia.”
Tickets for the event are on sale now and can be purchased from: http://www.autosportinternational.com. Tickets for Williams’ experiential centrepiece are also available for a charitable donation to Williams Martini Racing’s official charity partner, the Spinal Injuries Association, which supports those affected by spinal cord injuries.

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FORMULA 3

FACES GOING PLACES

ENAAM AHMED GOING DOWN UNDER TO RISE & SHINE

Enaam Ahmed, friend of F1 Weekly from his sensational karting career, is hoping to get his 2017 racing campaign rolling to match the conclusion of his 2016 season.

The Tasman series may have flown into extinction like the Dodo bird, but the New Zealand-based Castrol Toyota Racing Series has feathered the careers of several promising young drivers over the past few years.

Recent past champions include home grown talent Mitch Evans, who went on to become GP3 Champion. Lance Stroll won the championship in 2015 and this season will see action in Formula 1 with Williams.

In 2016, Lando Norris took the title and went on to win the Formula Renault Euro cup.

Enaam is now 16, the minimum age requirement to compete in the Castrol Toyota Racing Series, and with two race winning seasons of open wheel competition behind him, is looking forward to championship challenge against not only much older drivers, but also drivers who raced last year in the same series.

The opening round of the 2017 Championship is on January 14 at Ruapuna near Christchurch. Each round features three races and is staged on successive weekends; the final event on February 12 at Manfeild is the prestigious New Zealand Grand Prix.

After winning five karting championships in his final season of karting in 2014, Enaam raced to Rookie of the Year honors, and 5th overall, in the 2015 British MSA Formula Championship. He also raced in selected rounds of the Northern European-based SMP Formula 4 Series; winning five races, including all three at Pärnu in Estonia.

The 2016 season saw Enaam step up to the BRDC British F3 and in the opening round at Snetterton he was a race winner and also finished on the podium in the other two races of the weekend. He was classified 5th in the overall standings in this very competitive series. He then completed the 2016 racing season on a high note by winning the British F3 Autumn Trophy.

The car used in the Castrol Toyota Racing Series is the Italian Tatuus single-seater, powered by a 1.8 liter Toyota engine which produces around 160 kWs running on an 85 percent ethanol bio-fuel.

Michelin is the official tire supplier.

Enaam will race with Giles Motorsport; his teammates will be Australian Luis Leeds and Dutch driver Richard Verschoor.

Quick and consistent, Enaam’s fighting spirit has been the hallmark of this young racer from London town.

Racing so far from home base, Enaam said, “I’m really excited to be going into TRS with such fierce competition. It’s going to be a really good challenge to go up against these experienced guys as I wasn’t old enough to do it last year.

“Let’s see how it goes!”

  • Nasir Hameed