Dakar: Gallegos wins Stage 9 in quads, while Sonik re-takes overall lead (VIDEO)

0 Comments

Chile’s Victor Gallegos thrust himself into the battle for quad supremacy between fellow Chilean Ignacio Casale and Poland’s Rafal Sonik in Tuesday’s Stage 9 of the 2015 Dakar Rally.

Gallegos, who finished fifth in the category in his inaugural Dakar last year, defeated Sonik by more than 15 minutes on Tuesday to earn his first-ever Dakar stage win.

After his Top-5 overall finish in 2014, Gallegos hasn’t been as stout in his second go-round in the world’s toughest rally. Through nine stages this year, he has just two Top-5 finishes; at this point last year, he had collected five Top-5s already.

But Gallegos feels that he has shown how strong he truly is.

“It was a good stage with a good pace,” he said. “It’s the first stage where I haven’t had any mechanical problems…Last year, I finished the Dakar in fifth place and this year, my goal was to be among the leaders. I haven’t enjoyed a particularly favorable first half of the Dakar, but today in any case, I showed the pace that I am capable of.

“I’m all the happier with the day’s work seeing as I’m on a 450 cc quad whilst my rivals are riding 750 cc.”

As for the overall fight, Sonik has re-taken the lead once more after beating Casale (fourth on Tuesday) by almost 11 minutes. With four stages left in the 2015 Dakar, Sonik is now up on Casale by four minutes even.

A 1-minute, 29-second stage win for Ayrat Mardeev on Tuesday allowed him to continue leading the overall standings in the truck category.

But with four stages to go, it’s time to cue up the ‘Jaws’ music. Because Mardeev’s KAMAZ teammate, Eduard Nikolaev, continues to move closer to the top spot.

Nikolaev’s win in Monday’s Stage 8 allowed him to move up to third in the overall, and his runner-up finish on Tuesday to Mardeev has now propelled him to second on the big board at 14 minutes, 10 seconds back.

With five wins already in the 2015 Dakar, Nikolaev can easily tighten things up further in the final days. Mardeev may not be able to afford even the slightest stumble now.

Andrey Karginov, the defending Dakar truck champion, fell out of P2 overall after finishing fourth on Tuesday by 15 and a half minutes. What had been a five-minute gap to the leader Mardeev is now at almost 21 minutes. Time will tell if Tuesday proves to be the end of his title defense.

NBCSN’s coverage of the Dakar Rally continues with Stage 9 highlights tomorrow at 4:30 p.m. ET.

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images
0 Comments

Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed their new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with US-based Ford Motors in a press event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Team Principle Christian Horner. They are the only Formula 1 team to launch in the United States, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen had already wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts will inevitably turn to establishing a dynasty – and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his principle rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.