Ricky Brabec (pictured in 2016). Photo: Getty Images

Dakar 2017: Brabec second in bikes; Al-Attiyah leads overall on day 1

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American rider Ricky Brabec has come third in the opening stage of the 2017 Dakar Rally in the bike category, and was later promoted to second following a penalty for the stage winner. Meanwhile overall and in cars, two-time overall winner Nasser Al-Attiyah holds the top spot.

Coverage of today’s opening stage will air on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Brabec, the 25-year-old who rides the No. 9 CRF 450 Rally Honda for the Monster Energy Honda Team, is regarded as the top American with a chance to star in this year’s Dakar, especially following the lingering injuries that have sidelined Red Bull’s Bryce Menzies, who was scheduled to compete in the car class.

French rider Xavier de Soultrait, who is in the No. 23 WR 450 F Yamaha for Viltais Racing Team HFP, took the opening stage win over Spaniard Juan Pedrero Garcia (No. 12 RTR 450 Sherco TVS, Sherco TVS Rally Factory) by two seconds. Brabec was third, 14 seconds back.

However, following the conclusion of the stage, Soultrait was docked nine positions for a speeding violation. That promotes Pedrero to the stage win and Brabec up to second.

Toby Price, who won the bike category at Dakar last year, sits one minute and 25 seconds in arrears.

Overall, Al-Attiyah has taken the lead with a 24-second stage win over Xavier Pons, and 29-seconds over Nani Roma. The Qatari driver won overall in 2011 and 2015, and this year shares the No. 301 Hilux Toyota for Toyota Gazoo Racing SA with co-driver Matthieu Baumel. Al-Attiyah survived a smoke scare to make it to the stage finish.

Roma is in the No. 305 Toyota, while Pons is in the No. 311 Ranger Ford for DMAS South Racing.

Of note, 2016 Dakar winner Stephane Peterhansel sits a minute, 34 seconds in arrears, with Carlos Sainz 33 seconds back, Sebastien Loeb 55 seconds back, Mikko Hirvonen one minute and 20 seconds back, and 24 Hours of Le Mans/FIA World Endurance Champion Romain Dumas one minute and 44 seconds back.

The other stage one class winners were Martin Kolomy (Trucks, No. 508 Phoenix Tatra, Tatra Buggyra Racing), Tim Coronel (UTV, No. 347 Swift GL Suzuki, Maxxis Dakar Team Powered by Super B) and Marcelo Medeiros (Quads, No. 271 YFM700R Yamaha, Taguatur Racing Team).

Here was the stage map.

F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High:Β Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low:Β A poor opening two races in Australia and China.