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2017 Dakar Rally: Paraguay joins Argentina, Bolivia; Robby Gordon to bypass event

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The 2017 Dakar Rally has one major addition and one significant name missing from the list of competitors.

Dakar Rally coverage begins on Tuesday, January 3, at 5:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

New to the 37th edition of the Rally is the addition of Paraguay to the course map, joining Argentina and Bolivia. Paraguay becomes the 29th different country to be one of the hosts of the Rally over its 36 years of existence, the last nine being held in South America after safety concerns prompted cancellation of the 2008 Rally.

This year’s Rally begins Jan. 2 in Asuncion, Paraguay and ends on Jan. 14 near Buenos Aires, Argentina.

NBCSN’s daily coverage of this year’s Dakar Rally begins on Jan. 3 at 5:30 p.m. ET.

“The route of the 2017 Dakar preserves rally-raid traditions,” new Rally sporting director Mark Coma said in a media release, adding “with a physical challenge that will push the competitors into the world of extreme endurance: 7 selective sections will be over 400 kilometers (248.548 miles) with one of more than 500 kilometers (310.686 miles).

2017-dakar-rally-logo-correct-one-use-this-one“The Rally will be spent 6 days at more than 3,000 meters (9,842.52 feet) above sea level. The balance of difficulties can be illustrated by a double upward trend: the level of difficulty will increase just until the rest day, then a second increase in power will be necessary to reach one’s ideal level for the ‘Super Belen.’ Nothing will be decided until the very last special stage at Rio Cuarto.”

As for the one significant name missing, American driver Robby Gordon – who has starred in IndyCar, NASCAR, off-road racing and is also the founder of the Stadium Super Trucks Series – will not be participating in this year’s event.

“The reason for not running Dakar is that I have been just way too busy with my other projects,” Gordon said in an email to MotorSportsTalk. “Stadium Super Trucks continues to grow, as we have a full schedule in 2017 with races on 3 continents, including 5 races in the US with IndyCar and 2 of our own Stadium Style events. In Australia we have a relationship with V8 Supercars where we have 2 events. And now we are going to China with Stadium Super Trucks for 2 events in 2017.”

Gordon is also working on new projects within his Speed Energy drink, the Arctic Cat 4-wheel platform and continues development of the Gordini Dakar race cars, which will not be ready for this year’s Rally.

However, there are three American competitors to keep a close watch on: motorcycle rider Ricky Brabec, who finished ninth in his Rally debut last year, and Mini driver Bryce Menzies (co-driver is fellow U.S. racer Peter Mortensen). Both Menzies and Mortensen are making their first appearance in the Rally.

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Kubica, di Resta complete Williams F1 tests in Hungary

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Robert Kubica and Paul di Resta have both completed one-day tests for Williams in a 2014-spec Formula 1 car as part of the team’s evaluation for its 2018 line-up.

Williams is known to be considering a number of drivers to partner Lance Stroll at the team next year, including existing racer Felipe Massa.

Massa is thought to be going up against Kubica and di Resta for the 2018 drive, with the latter duo taking part in a private test at the Hungaroring in Budapest this week to aid the team’s evaluation.

After missing out on a 2018 Renault drive due to lingering questions about his physical condition six years after his rally accident, Kubica tested for Williams at Silverstone last week before getting back behind the wheel of the 2014 FW36 car in Hungary on Tuesday.

Kubica’s test was called “productive” by Williams, with the Pole handing duties over to Mercedes DTM racer di Resta on Wednesday.

Di Resta raced in F1 with Force India between 2010 and 2013 before returning to DTM, but made a surprise return at this year’s Hungarian Grand Prix with Williams when Massa was taken ill. Di Resta impressed on short notice, putting himself in contention for a full-time return to F1 in 2018.

Williams has one of the few remaining seats on offer in F1 for 2018, with Massa’s future known to be in question after a quiet campaign thus far.

The Brazilian had been due to retire from F1 at the end of last year, only for Williams to recall him after Valtteri Bottas’ late move up to Mercedes following Nico Rosberg’s surprise retirement.

Massa has made clear he would like to keep racing in F1 next year, but only if the deal is right and if Williams is determined to keep him.

While Massa, Kubica and di Resta appear to be the three leading contenders for the seat, Williams technical chief Paddy Lowe made clear in Japan there was a “large range” of drivers under consideration.

“You’ve probably seen a number of names that are floating around that we’re looking at, but honestly, the range is almost unlimited,” Lowe said.

“We will consider all ideas. We’re not in a super hurry to do so, and we’ll just make sure we land the best line-up we can.”