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

Leave a comment

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.

Lewis Hamilton aims to match Michael Schumacher’s F1 win record

Lewis Hamilton Schumacher record
Mark Sutton - Pool/Getty Images
Leave a comment

SOCHI, Russia — Lewis Hamilton has set many Formula One marks over the years, but few are as significant as the Michael Schumacher record he can match Sunday at the Russian Grand Prix.

Victory for Hamilton at the Sochi Olympic Park would see him draw level with Schumacher at 91 career victories, more than any other driver in the 70-year history of F1.

It also would increase Hamilton’s commanding 55-point lead over teammate Valtteri Bottas in the championship standings, putting him closer to a seventh world championship, matching another Schumacher record.

YOU’RE INVITED: Bubba Wallace hopes to see Lewis Hamilton at Daytona

History is on the side of Hamilton, who won Sept. 13 at Mugello. He’s won four of the six Russian races so far, and all six were won by Mercedes drivers. His closest challenger is likely to be Bottas, who beat Hamilton in the 2017 edition of the Russian Grand Prix.

Elsewhere in the championship hunt, Red Bull driver Max Verstappen’s season has gone up in smoke since his Aug. 9 victory at Silverstone. An overheating engine forced the Dutch driver out of the Sept. 6 race at Monza and then a similar problem struck just before the start at Mugello. Verstappen was far slower off the line than the cars around him and was struck by Kimi Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo.

That leaves Verstappen 80 points off Hamilton in the standings and a 25-point deficit to Bottas.

If Hamilton does win to tie Schumachher at Sochi, more fans will see it in person than any other race in a 2020 season mostly run before empty grandstands because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Organizers say the race weekend is sold out but haven’t given final ticket sales figures.

Race promoter Alexei Titov previously told Russian state TV that the stands would be at 50 percent of their capacity, which equates to around 30,000 spectators.

That’s far more than the previous season high of 3,000 fans for the most recent race, the Tuscan Grand Prix at the Mugello circuit.

Unlike at the last two races in Italy, there will be a full entertainment program on offer for fans with concerts featuring some of Russia’s most popular musicians.

Russian organizers say they’re taking precautions to keep fans safe and will have medical staff posted at checkpoints around the venue, and that spectators will have their temperature measured on entry.