Monday Motor Sport Report

DAKAR: Nasser Al-Attiyah leads Mini domination

MINI driver Nasser Al-Attiyah has taken a crushing - though never easy – win in the 137-strong car class of the 2015 Dakar Rally, to claim a second title on the back of a success with VW in 2011.

It was the fourth consecutive Dakar triumph for Mini. Underscoring its pace and reliability, four Minis finished among the top five.

Al-Attiyah would have led from start to finish but for a two- minute speeding penalty imposed after he was quickest on the opening competitive stage.

The calculating, ever-smiling 44-year-old Qatari immediately bounced back to take control on the second day and thereafter was never threatened, though he still needed to drive quickly and stay out of trouble.

Al-Attiyah won five of the 13 legs. In the end he won overall by 35m34s from South African Giniel De Villiers in a Toyota Hilux, with Poland’s Krzysztof Holowczyc third in a Mini.

“I promised last year when I was on the podium that I'd be back to win, and now I'm here,” said Al-Attiyah. “It was very hard to lead the race from the very beginning and to continue keeping this position on the long distance.”

His only real issue during the 14-day marathon was a bout of altitude sickness, which barely slowed him.  Oh, should we mention the dust, dunes, ravines, rocks, ruts, searing heat, crazy rain and sloppy mud?

Peugeot’s return to the Dakar stage after a 25-year absence was hardly a resounding success.  Carlos Sainz destroyed his Pug in a crunching rollover while the cars of Stéphane Peterhansel and Cyril Despres finished 11th and 34th respectively.

They accumulated valuable experience that should help Peugeot come back stronger in 2016.

“It’s important to know how to sacrifice one year in order to prepare properly for the next one,” declared Peterhansel.

Overall Car Ranking Rally Dakar 2015:

1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Mini 40h32m25s

2. Giniel de Villiers (RSA)/Dirk von Zitzewitz (DEU) Toyota All Speed +00:35:34

3. Krzysztof Holowczyc (POL)/Xavier Panseri (FRA) Mini  +01:32:01

4. Erik van Loon (NLD)/Wouter Roesegar (NLD) Mini +03:01:52

5. Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS) Mini +03:12:41

6. Christian Lavieille (FRA)/Pascal Maimon (FRA) Toyota +03:15:58

7. Bernhard Ten Brinke (NLD)/Tom Colsoul (BEL) Toyota +03:42:02

8. Carlos Sousa (PRT)/Paulo Fiuza (PRT) Mitsubishi +03:44:59

9. Aidyn Rakhimbayev (KAZ)/Anton Nikolaev (RUS) Mini +04:08:44

10. Ronan Chabot (FRA)/Gilles Pillot (FRA) SMG +04:42:36

DAKAR: Aussie Price snatches bike podium

AUSTRALIA’S Toby Price has finished a stunning third on his debut in the motorcycle division of the bruising Dakar Rally, collecting a fine special stage win (and a second in another) in a performance that must have caught the eyes of international factory teams.

The 27-year-old Motorex KTM rider from New South Wales – one of 161 two-wheeled starters – was fast and consistent throughout, dealing with the vagaries of navigation, exhaustion and the confronting terrain and mad weather throughout the world’s best-known extreme adventure. 

He stayed in striking distance of a podium finish and then moved to third as the days wound down in  the 9000km enduro held across three countries in South America.

Price’s brilliant rookie efforts equalled the best result by an Australian rider on the Dakar Rally; South Australian Andy Haydon was third in 1998 in his only attempt at the world’s toughest off-road race.

Spaniard factory KTM ace Marc Coma won his fifth Dakar and was joined on the podium by Portugal’s Paulo Goncalves (Honda).

“One of the toughest and badass races I've ever done,” said a delighted Price. “Just getting to the finish line is a win for everybody, but I somehow managed third overall and a spot on the podium with these two legends.

SPORTS CARS:  New Porsche 919 Hybrid revealed

THE wraps have come off Porsche’s revised weapon for the 2015 World Endurance Championship, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The pictures show the latest iteration of the 919 Hybrid undertaking a shakedown at Porsche’s Weissach test track in the hands of driver Marc Lieb.

Porsche described the 2015 919 as a "comprehensive evolution" of last year's model, but has been coy about releasing much more info.

It has suggested it will be better able to adapt to the different characteristics of the various race tracks on the 2015 WEC calendar.

Porsche has confirmed the revised version  retains the same powertrain as its predecessor – a turbocharged 2.0-litre V4 petrol engine, two energy recovery systems and an electric motor that powers the front wheels.

Only subtle aerodynamic changes have been made to the car that won the final WEC round of 2014 in Brazil.

The Porsche squad will test the new car at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina circuit this week. Other test programs will happen before the WEC season opener on April 12 at Silverstone in England.

BATHURST 12 HOUR:  Erebus team cradle-snatches for its “amateur” SLS GT3

EREBUS Motorsport has moved close to creating some Mount Panorama history by naming American teenager Austin Cindric among its driver line-up for the Bathurst 12 Hour.

Sixteen-year-old Cindric, the son of Penske Racing president Tim, will become the youngest driver to contest the Bathurst 12 Hour when he joins the team’s two-car assault on the enduro.

The prodigy has been racing regularly in his homeland, but the 12 Hour gig is the biggest challenge he has faced in a brief track career.

Cindric, a sophomore and honour student at Cannon School in North Carolina who last year raced and sampled 17 different tracks across five different series in North America, said he was excited about the opportunity to test himself at Mount Panorama.

“I'm really looking forward to my first race in Australia and for it to occur at a track as historic as Bathurst makes it really cool,’’ said young Cindric.

He is part of the team’s youthful ‘amateur class’ entry in the #63 SLS AMG GT3 alongside Australian Formula 3 racers Simon Hodge and Nathan Morcom.

Hodge is the current Australian F3 Champion and current holder of the category lap record at Bathurst.

Highly regarded Dean Canto will link with Erebus Motorsport’s 2014 Australian GT Championship winner Richard Muscat and last year’s Bathurst 12-Hour placegetter Jack Le Brocq in the ‘pro class’ #36 SLS AMG GT3 entry.

Canto, who finished a close second in a V8 Supercar in the 2012 Bathurst 1000, said he was excited to be linking with a team with such an outstanding record in the Bathurst 12 Hour (including a win in 2013).  It will be his second start in the endurance sports car event.

After claiming the Australian GT Championship in his debut season with Erebus Motorsport last year, Muscat said he was eager to test himself against some of the best GT drivers in the world at the 12 Hour.

Coming off the back of a memorable podium finish for Erebus last year with Will Davison and Greg Crick, Le Brocq is hoping to raise the bar even higher in 2015.

TOYOTA SERIES: Aussie Randle fires in New Zealand

CANADIAN teenager Lance Stroll has taken out the prestigious Lady Wigram Trophy, part of the opening round of New Zealand’s 2015 Toyota Racing Series held at the weekend at Ruapuna, near Christchurch.

But Australian newcomer Thomas Randle also impressed, though Stroll, 16,  was the standout in a classy international field, winning an action-packed 20-lapper ahead of India’s Arjun Maini, GP2 driver Artem Markelov and Santino Ferrucci.

Stroll now joins some illustrious names who’ve won the Wigram race, including Jack Brabham, Peter Whitehead, Bruce McLaren, Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart, Frank Matich, Jochen Rindt, Larry Perkins, Paul Radisich and Craig Baird.

On Saturday, Stroll took victory in the 15-lap pipe-opener from Austrian Stefan Riener (later pinged for a jump start), with Maini holding off Australia’s Randle.

Randle, 18, also uncorked a sizzling drive in the Sunday Wigram  feature, coming from 17th to claim sixth after he had to take to the grass to avoid a scrimmage on the opening lap.

His Saturday podium and hard-charging recovery drive to sixth handed him fourth overall for the opening round of the TRS, his first experience of slicks-and-wings competition.

“I’m over the moon with this result,” said Randle, the lone Australian among the 20 competitors.

“To be honest, it was hard to come into this weekend with any real expectations as this field is ultra-competitive with a few surprise packets, so I wasn’t quite sure where I would stack up.

“To come away from Ruapuna fourth in the points is just awesome and it feels even better knowing this is a real result – we were quick all weekend and even had an electrical gremlin in race two, so it’s not as though we lucked in.”

The 2015 Toyota Racing Series now heads to Teretonga near Invercargill for round two next weekend.

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