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

Leave a comment

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.

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
IMSA
Leave a comment

As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”