Cyril Despres. Getty Images

Dakar 2017: Halfway report, Stage 6 cancellation videos

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The second half of the 2017 Dakar Rally kicks off today with the seventh stage of competition, from La Paz to Uyuni. Stage six, scheduled for Saturday, was cancelled due to miserable weather.

Videos from NBCSN’s coverage from the weekend are linked in this post. The next Dakar Rally show is Monday at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

In the 12-stage rally, the contenders for the win are starting to become clearer. How those listed below rise or fall over the next few days of competition will determine if they bring home a win.

CARS

Defending Dakar champion Stephane Peterhansel looks to extend his record run of double-digit Dakar wins, but will have to fend off two of his Peugeot teammates to do so. Sebastien Loeb, meanwhile, is poised to capture his first overall Dakar win and will look to overcome an achievable gap of just over one minute. Nani Roma (Toyota) boasts the best chance of those not driving a Peugeot trying to win.

Of note, Orlando Terranova ranks seventh in the MINI originally scheduled for American Bryce Menzies. Giniel De Villiers is eighth in another Toyota, and Romain Dumas sits 10th in a Peugeot.

Stephane Peterhansel during stage five of the 2017 Dakar Rally between Tupiza and Oruro on January 6, 2017 at an unspecified location in Bolivia. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)

1. 300-Stephane Peterhansel, Peugeot, 14:02:58
2. 309-Sebastien Loeb, Peugeot, +1:09
3. 307-Cyril Despres, Peugeot, +4:54
4. 305-Nani Roma, Toyota, +5:35
5. 303-Mikko Hirvonen, MINI, +42.21

BIKES

The bike rally has almost been a process of elimination with Juan Pedrero, Joan Barreda, American Ricky Brabec and defending champion Toby Price all falling from contention and in Price’s case, dropping out entirely with a fractured left femur. Seeing the competitors rally to support Price as Price has offered updates on a quick recovery has been one of the Dakar’s highlights this year.

Among those who’ve rallied to Price is Sam Sunderland, the Englishman who’s currently the rally leader on bikes by 12 minutes over Pablo Quintanilla.

Happy to see my boy @tobyprice87 in good spirits and on the mend! All the best brother! 💪🏻🤙🏻👊🏻

A post shared by Sam Sunderland (@sundersam) on

Of note, Brabec sits 21st in the rally, more than an hour behind. Barreda has fallen to 11th, and Pedrero down to 24th. Others who’ve factored in the early stages – Xavier de Soultrait (sixth), Paulo Goncalves (ninth) – are also out of the top five.

LA PAZ, BOLIVIA – JANUARY 08: Sam Sunderland of Great Britain and KTM poses for a photograph during a rest day for the 2017 Dakar Rally on January 8, 2017 in La Paz, Bolivia. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)

1. 14-Sam Sunderland, KTM, 15:22:05
2. 3-Pablo Quintanilla, Husqvarna, +12:00
3. 6-Adrien Van Beveren, Yamaha, +16:07
4. 8-Gerard Farres Guell, KTM, +20:57
5. 16-Matthias Walkner, KTM, +29:01

QUADS

Simon Vitse leads what is at the moment a 1-4 sweep by Yamaha, with Daniel Mazzucco fifth in the first Can-Am at 47 minutes, 32 seconds in arrears.

1. 279-Simon Vitse, Yamaha, 19:32:22
2. 254-Sergey Karayakin, Yamaha, +8:14
3. 280-Axel Dutrie, Yamaha, +10:35

TRUCKS

Gerard De Rooy keeps one red, white and blue flag (Netherlands) ahead of a trio of drivers with another red, white and blue flag (Russia) in the truck category.

1. 500-Gerard De Rooy, Iveco, 14:06:07
2. 505-Eduard Nikolaev, Kamaz, +2:23
3. 513-Dmitri Sotnikov, Kamaz, +6:36

UTV

Leandro Torres leads this class by more than two hours.

1. 351-Leandro Torres, Polaris, 25:22:24
2. 342-Mao Ruijin, Polaris, +2:34:04
3. 374-Li Dongsheng, Polaris, +2:47:25

STAGE RECAPS

Stage six (cancelled due to weather)
Stage five (shortened due to weather)
Stage four and (VIDEOS)
Stage three and (VIDEOS)
Stage two and (VIDEOS)
Stage one and (VIDEOS)

Hamilton leads first Monaco F1 practice, Button makes solid return

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Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel’s ongoing battle for supremacy in Formula 1 continued during first practice for the Monaco Grand Prix on Thursday morning as the duo locked out the top two positions.

Hamilton and Vettel have won four of the opening five rounds of the 2017 season and look set to enjoy a season-long fight for the championship, representing Mercedes and Ferrari respectively.

Hamilton drew first blood in Monaco, turning in a best lap of 1:13.425 around the tight streets of the principality to finish two-tenths clear of Vettel at the top of the timesheets.

The session saw Mercedes and Ferrari run close once again, yet Red Bull was also able to get into the mix at the head of the field with Max Verstappen finishing third-fastest, three-tenths of a second off the pace. Teammate Daniel Ricciardo was fifth-fastest.

Valtteri Bottas was fourth in the second Mercedes, but Kimi Raikkonen was less able to match his teammate’s pace, coming home seventh for Ferrari, half a second down on Vettel’s time in the same car.

Toro Rosso and Force India both had impressive sessions as both teams got their drivers into the top 10. Daniil Kvyat was sixth for Toro Rosso as teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. was ninth, sandwiched by Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon for Force India.

Jenson Button’s first running in a 2017-spec F1 car was impressive as he finished 14th for McLaren ahead of his one-off grand prix return. The Briton turned in 31 laps in total and lapped less than two-tenths of a second slower than teammate Stoffel Vandoorne, proving he has lost little of his touch over the winter.

Running in Monaco continues with second practice live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 8am ET on Thursday.

Sebastien Bourdais released from IU Methodist hospital; begins rehab

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INDIANAPOLIS – Sebastien Bourdais only posted just yesterday that he was “unable to go for a run” – his spirit and humor clearly not affected despite sustaining multiple pelvic fractures and a fractured right hip in his crash during qualifying for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil in the No. 18 GEICO Honda on Saturday.

On Thursday, his post revealed even better news: he’s been released from IU Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, and will be set to fly home soon to Florida for his rehabilitation.

Bourdais’ place in the race at Dale Coyne Racing will be taken by James Davison, but judging by this first round of leaving, the Frenchman is keen to begin the recovery process as quick as humanly possible.

Bottas remains confident he can close gap in F1 title race

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MONACO (AP) Valtteri Bottas has put his recent bad luck behind him and remains confident he can close the gap in the Formula One title race at this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix.

The Finnish driver’s fledgling Mercedes career has been a topsy-turvy one since he joined from Williams as a replacement for F1 champion Nico Rosberg.

He drove brilliantly to win his first career race at the Russian Grand Prix after securing his first ever pole position in Sochi last month. But two weeks ago he was undone by engine problems in practice for the Spanish GP and then failed to finish because of a turbo issue late in the race.

“It’s one to forget for sure. It’s been a bit up and down for me this year,” Bottas said Wednesday at the Monaco GP. “Bad result, good result.”

His other results so far are two third places and one sixth place, putting him 41 points behind four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel and 35 behind three-time champion Lewis Hamilton, his Mercedes teammate.

“The gap to Sebastian, to Lewis, is bigger than I was hoping for this year. But things can change quickly,” Bottas said. “What gives me confidence is that there is still 75 percent of the season left. I feel my best races are ahead this year. I feel I’ve done a good job in some races, but I feel there is more to come to be at a consistently good level.”

Although Bottas has impressed with this speed, he has yet to show the hallmarks of a genuine title contender.

His magnanimous approach goes somewhat against that.

Bottas showed his team ethic by allowing Hamilton past him in Bahrain so that the British driver could chase after Vettel.

He did so again in Barcelona, holding up Vettel for a crucial few laps. That allowed Hamilton to gain some precious seconds on Vettel’s chasing Ferrari. Hamilton won a thrilling race, Vettel was second and Bottas got nothing – except praise for his efforts.

It is a difficult situation for Bottas, who is on a one-year contract and has the added pressure of the demanding Hamilton as a teammate. With 55 race wins to his name, Hamilton is clearly the No. 1 driver, even though the team has not officially said so.

Over the past three years, Hamilton was on an equal footing with Rosberg as they fought each other for the title. This led to tensions and fall outs.

The 27-year-old Bottas is not relishing the prospect of finding himself in a similar position. But it might become inevitable if he does manage to close the gap on Hamilton and turn the title race into a genuine three-way battle.

“I can’t even imagine how it can be after a few years with a teammate battling for the title always. There is respect both ways (with Hamilton), which is good,” Bottas said. “(We are) just enjoying working together and hopefully that will help us in this close fight with Ferrari. It is a team sport anyway, so we need to push forward together.”

It’s hardly the talk of a driver desperate to win the title.

F1 Paddock Pass: Monaco Grand Prix (VIDEO)

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From the streets of Monte Carlo, Monaco, comes the crown jewel of the Formula 1 season (all times for the weekend via NBC or NBCSN here) this weekend, the Monaco Grand Prix.

And here with the pre-race updates from the paddock are NBCSN pit reporter and insider Will Buxton and producer Jason Swales, along with the race crew from the F1 on NBC team who are on site in Monaco.

This is an interesting weekend for Monaco, given the Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel battle for race wins and the championship so far in 2017. There’s also the question of whether someone can spring a surprise in Monaco, as has been done on several occasions over the years.

Here’s the show, below: