Dakar: Rafal Sonik takes control in quads; Kamaz team back on top in trucks (VIDEO)

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Last year’s Dakar Rally quads runner-up, Rafal Sonik, is your new leader in the category after winning in Stage 2 on Monday in Argentina.

The Polish racer (pictured, from 2014) followed-up his second-place showing in Sunday’s opening stage with a win over defending Dakar champion Ignacio Casale of Chile by a margin of just over three and a half minutes. From the overall standpoint, that means a lead of two minutes, 26 seconds for Sonik.

Stage 2 from Villa Carlos Paz to San Juan, Argentina was the longest of the 2015 Dakar at 518 kilometers. Casale said he had to slow down over the final 100 kilometers of the stage, because he was dealing with dehydration after running out of water.

“Today, it was a very difficult stage, the hardest I’ve ridden in my life,” Casale said. “I thought that I was going to drop out. I had a lot of thoughts running around my mind throughout the day…I suffered a lot and didn’t feel great at all. I slowed down my pace over the last 100 km.

“In any case, given the length and toughness of the stage, the aim was to make sure I finished…But I couldn’t do anything more. I was in a really complicated situation. I went and sat in the medical tent for 40 minutes to rest and drink…I’ve never experienced anything like that.”

As for the trucks, the KAMAZ team – winners of a record 12 Dakar Rallies – bounced back from a tough Sunday (none of their entries finished in the Top 5) to get two out of the Top 3 spots on Monday, including P1.

Russian pilot Eduard Nikolaev scored a 46-second win over the Iveco team’s Siarhei Viazovich of Belarus. Ayrat Mardeev put his KAMAZ in third position, just three seconds behind Viazovich.

Hans Stacey, the Stage 1 winner, initially kept hold of the top overall position in the truck category with a fourth-place run in his Iveco. However, he was penalized one minute and was dropped to sixth in Monday’s stage. That means Nikolaev is now leading the pack with a slim lead of 40 seconds over Stacey.

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.