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Dakar 2017: American Ricky Brabec breaks through with Stage 7 win

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On an interesting day in bikes where overall race leader Sam Sunderland stopped 38 km into the new stage route for Stage 7, La Paz to Uyuni, American Ricky Brabec has captured his first stage win in this year’s Dakar Rally.

The next round of Dakar Rally coverage on NBCSN is at 6:30 p.m. ET Monday night.

Brabec, on his No. 9 Monster Energy Honda Team Honda, closed to 18 seconds of in-stage leader Paolo Goncalves at the final update prior to the checkered flag to then ending ahead of him by one minute, 44 seconds by the end of the stage.

It marks Brabec’s first stage win and will see him climb the overall ranks from 21st, where he was at the halfway point at Stage 6. Stage 6 was cancelled outright due to poor weather. His best finish this Dakar was second on the opening stage.

Goncalves was second, and Sunderland recovered to third in the stage.

More will follow from Brabec’s day later on. Meanwhile a profile piece on Brabec from NBCSN’s day one coverage, in his second Dakar, is linked below.

F1 2017 driver review: Nico Hulkenberg

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Nico Hulkenberg

Team: Renault
Car No.: 27
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P6 (Spain, Great Britain, Belgium, Abu Dhabi)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 43
Championship Position: 10th

Expectations were hard to peg for Renault heading into its second full season back in F1 with a factory team, but Nico Hulkenberg was surely expected to be the man spearheading its charge.

With teammate Jolyon Palmer severely underperforming, Hulkenberg did exactly that, bringing home all but 14 of the team’s points in the final standings. However, consistency was never something he truly found.

Many of Renault’s issues were down to reliability issues, sidelining Hulkenberg for six races – four coming in a five-race stint from Singapore to Mexico – yet he only scored points in consecutive races on three occasions.

When Hulkenberg and Renault were on form, they proved to be a potent combination, often topping the midfield fight and even looking faster than Force India come the end of the season. His run to sixth at the final race in Abu Dhabi was crucial for the constructors’ championship as Renault jumped Toro Rosso, securing an extra slice of prize money in the process.

But for a driver who was so often tipped as being a future star in F1, Hulkenberg still has a lot to prove. Renault is set to offer a good platform for the German moving forward with factory support, yet if he cannot beat new teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. through 2018, concerns will surely be raised.

Season High: Charging to sixth in Abu Dhabi despite a penalty.

Season Low: A tough run to 16th in Malaysia.