Dakar: Hat trick for Nikolaev in trucks; Casale charges in quads (VIDEO)

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Eduard Nikolaev continued to rumble along in the 2015 Dakar Rally with his third consecutive stage victory in Friday’s Stage 6 from Antofagasta to Iquique, Chile.

Nikolaev’s latest win is also his fourth in the opening six stages of this year’s running. He took the stage by five minutes, 37 seconds over KAMAZ teammate Ayrat Mardeev and by almost 11 minutes over third-place finisher Andrey Karginov – who had been just two minutes and change behind Nikolaev at the final way point before the run to the finish.

Friday’s proceedings means that Nikolaev has held the overall lead again as well. That advantage now sits at 13 minutes, 38 seconds over Mardeev, while Karginov has fallen to more than 38 minutes off the pace. He’s going to have to push hard in order to have a chance at retaining his Dakar crown from one year ago.

As for the quads, Ignacio Casale ripped a sizable chunk from Rafal Sonik’s overall lead in the category with his third win of the Dakar. Casale beat Sonik by a margin of eight minutes, 15 seconds – a strong response after Sonik beat him by almost 11 minutes in Thursday’s Stage 5.

But the Polish rider still holds a relatively comfortable advantage overall at 16 minutes, eight seconds up on the Chilean and defending Dakar champ.

As the end of the first week looms, it’s looking more and more like these two will be fighting for the title amongst themselves; Uruguay’s Sergio Lafuente continues to languish at more than 40 minutes behind Sonik in third spot.

NBCSN’s coverage of the Dakar Rally continues with Stage 6 highlights on Saturday morning at 6 a.m. ET.

Keating stripped of Le Mans GTE-Am win; No. 68 Ganassi entry also disqualified

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FIA stewards announced Monday that two Ford GT entries have been disqualified from this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, including the GTE-Am class-winning No. 85 entry from privateer Keating Motorsports.

Also DQ’d was the factory No. 68 Chip Ganassi Racing entry of Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller and Sebastien Bourdais, which initially finished fourth in the GTE-Pro class.

Both entries were found in violation of fuel capacity regulations, with the No. 85 entry also failing to meet the minimum refueling time during pit stops.

The refueling system on the No. 85 entry, driven by Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Felipe Fraga, measured a time of 44.4 seconds during a stop, just shy of the minimum required time of 45 seconds.

As a result, the team was initially issued a 55.2-second post-race penalty by officials, which elevated the No. 56 Team Project 1 Porsche 911 RSR of Joerg Bergmeister, Patrick Lindsey, and Egidio Perfetti to the class win.

The time penalty was calculated by the difference in the refueling time (0.6 seconds) multiplied by the amount of pit stops made by the team (23), then multiplied by four.

The No. 85 entry was set to finish second in class, but then received an outright DQ after its fuel capacity was also revealed to be 0.1 liters above the maximum permitted capacity of 96 liters.

As for Ganassi’s No. 68 entry, it was found to have a fuel capacity of 97.83 liters, which is above the maximum allowed capacity of 97 liters for the GTE-Pro Fords.

The No. 67 Ford of Andy Priaulx, Harry Tincknell, and Jonathan Bomarito subsequently moves up to fourth, and the No. 69 Ford of Scott Dixon, Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook moves up to fifth.

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