Dakar: Casale revives hopes of another quad title; 19-year-old Ferioli wins

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Ignacio Casale (pictured, from Stage 4) is back on top.

His second-place finish in Monday’s Stage 8 of the Dakar Rally (Uyuni – Iquique) to 19-year-old Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli has propelled him to the overall lead in the quad category once again.

Casale finished almost eight minutes back of Ferioli, but his main competition – the man seeking to take his Dakar title away, Poland’s Rafal Sonik – entered the bivouac almost a half an hour behind him in eighth.

And what had been a 22-minute edge for Sonik after Sunday has completely flipped to a six-minute, 49-second lead for Casale just one day later.

It was especially satisfying for Casale, who said he had to ride the final kilometers of Sunday’s stage with fuel in his left boot and then fix his quad until late that night in the bivouac.

“[Sunday] was a nightmare,” Casale explained. “I’ve never experienced anything like that on a quad or a bike, the cold, the mud, the water…It was very tough and very unpleasant. The quad suffered and I had to do a fair bit of soldering. Yesterday was very complicated.

“This morning, I woke up with a bit more motivation. I’d repaired the quad. We set off early but nobody wanted to start. It was cold. In the end, we set off. There was water on the salt lake and it was majestic. From the start, I felt good and fast. I think I’ve ridden a good special.

“I’ve regained time on my rivals, Rafal Sonik and [third-place overall] Sergio Lafuente. I’m happy about that, because I went to sleep late yesterday. I worked very hard to prepare the quad. In the evening when I arrived in Uyuni, I really just wanted to go home…In the end, today was a great stage and I want to be Number 1 again.”

And right now, that is where he’s at. But if Casale’s motivation has been re-fired, you have to think Sonik’s own has done the same.

A post on Sonik’s Facebook page acknowledged that he had lost the overall lead but one phrase stands out: “The game is over.”

Niestety nie udało się dziś Rafałowi utrzymać pozycji lidera. Żarty się skończyły! Jutro walka do ostatniej kropli……

Posted by Rafał Sonik on Monday, January 12, 2015

With five stages to go, their duel is now officially on.

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.