Dakar: In face of tragedy, Duclos wins in Stage 6 (VIDEO)

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Forging ahead after the heart-breaking deaths of competitor Eric Palante and two others on Thursday, the 2014 Dakar Rally hit its sixth stage with a run from Tucuman to Salta, Argentina.

Motorcyclist Alain Duclos (pictured) ended an eight-year stage win drought in the Dakar, out-hustling overall category leader Marc Coma by a margin of 1:15. Duclos now sits third big-picture wise, one hour back of Coma, who holds a 42:17 lead over second-place Joan Barreda (fourth on Friday).

“Today, it was my type of terrain,” Duclos said after his run. “We’ve got over the worst over the last few days and the rest day has arrived at the right time – it couldn’t be better timed.”

Car racer Stephane Peterhansel bolstered his bid for a 12th Dakar championship with the 63rd stage win of his career in the famous rally. He is now tied with seven-time Dakar truck champ Vladimir Chagin for the most Dakar stage wins across all categories.

Following today’s events, Peterhansel is now third in the overall car standings and is less than three minutes behind second-place Orlando Terranova, who himself is off the pace of leader Nani Roma by half an hour.

“Today, it was a really nice stage,” said Peterhansel. “The first part was like a [World Rally Championship] track, but in very nice landscape. It was close to the National Park and was really beautiful. On the second, there was a little bit more vegetation, but also like a [WRC track], so today, navigation was really easy.”

The battle for quad supremacy between Rafal Sonik, Sergio Lafuente, and Ignacio Casale continues, as they finished first, second and fourth respectively in Stage 6. Sonik was a big winner in particular, as he peeled off a whopping 54 minutes from Lafuente.

However, the Uruguayan remains on top of the overall by 22:18 over Sonik and 24:04 over third-place Casale.

While the cars, bikes and quads all had special stages of at least 400 kilometers, the trucks took on a shorter, 156-kilometer version Friday. Peter Versluis of the Netherlands earned top honors in the stage, while fellow Dutchman Gerard de Rooy still leads the overall by 29:05.

Red Bull rising into the form expected when the season began

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) Young “Mad Max” Verstappen had plenty to be angry about for the first half of the Formula One season. After his breakout season in 2016, this year had been little more than a rash of retirements, crashes and clashes with other drivers.

But a late burst over the last two races delivered his second career victory and a second-place. Those results have Red Bull rising and looking more like the fast and muscular team it was expected to be.

Verstappen and teammate Daniel Ricciardo now look primed to keep pushing for the front over the final four races of 2017, starting this week at the U.S. Grand Prix. Do that and the prospects for a 2018 title fight grow brighter.

“We’re definitely going the way we need to be going,” Ricciardo said. “If we start on the front foot, I genuinely believe we can fight for the title if we start closer. That’s what we’re aiming for.”

Verstappen’s win in Malaysia demonstrated a perfect marriage of the young Dutchman’s driving skill and his improving car when he beat Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton with a head-to-head pass early. He was on the podium again a week later in Japan. The champagne spray at both races was a tasty but dry reminder that Red Bull wanted – and expected – so much more this season.

While Ricciardo has been a workhorse with nine podiums and one victory, Verstappen’s season was crippled by reliability issues with his car or crashes.

“There were so many races this year when he was in a fantastic position to achieve big results,” team principal Christian Horner said this week. “Credit to him that at such a young age he hasn’t let frustration boil over … when it comes right for him, it’s going to come right in a big way. And that’s exactly what happened in Malaysia. He drove a great race there, with no issues.”

Some of the “issues” created internal tension.

The first lap of the Hungarian Grand Prix was a disaster for Red Bull. Verstappen tried to overtake Ricciardo and hit him, knocking Ricciardo out of the race while Verstappen finished fifth. Ricciardo lashed out at Verstappen as “immature” and criticized the “amateur” maneuver.

Verstappen said he can’t think about what happened early in the season.

“That frustration I put behind me,” Verstappen said. “It happened. You can’t change it anymore. You’re just happy that it’s going well again and we had some good results.”

Ricciardo has carried Red Bull to the podium time and again but his broad smile hasn’t beamed from the top spot since Azerbaijan in June. Despite his run of strong finishes, he’s stuck at fourth in the driver’s standings and needs a boost to overtake Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas for third.

The Circuit of the Americas has been good for both Red Bull drivers in the past. Ricciardo finished third here in 2014 and 2016. Verstappen had an attention-getting drive in 2015 when he finished fourth in his Toro Rosso after sloshing his way through the field on a wet track.

Verstappen had a wild race in 2016 when he challenged for the lead early, came in for a pit stop when the crew wasn’t ready and yelled to his garage: “I’m not here to finish fourth!” He didn’t finish at all when his car was knocked out with a gearbox problem on lap 32.

Verstappen was 17 when he joined the F1 grid as the youngest driver in series history and he still jokes about his age. Austin is known for its live music and nightlife, but he’s limited as to how much he can party away from the track.

“I’m only 20. I can’t drink,” Verstappen said. “If I’m on the podium (Sunday) I won’t care.”