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.