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

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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.

Eli Tomac’s near-perfect season ended perfectly

ProMotocross.com
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From the start, Eli Tomac wanted to go into the season-ending race at Ironman Raceway with the 2020 red plate already in his possession. That final race has been know to devolve into muddy conditions and it is best not to leave things to chance.

For a rider with an almost perfect record of overall podium finishes, one would not have thought there would be much drama at the end of Round 11 at Budds Creek, but it took until the last lap of the final moto for Tomac to achieve his goal.

One reason was that Tomac’s near-perfect season was not so perfect. From the very beginning at Hangtown, Tomac struggled with poor starts to his events. Getting a bad jump out of the gate and finishing fourth in Moto 1 that weekend was not the auspicious beginning he wanted in search of his third consecutive 450 outdoor championship.

The hallmark of Tomac’s season has been overcoming bad starts. He rode through the field at Hangtown and nearly stood on the podium. Then he won Moto 2 and finished second overall. It was his first of nine consecutive overall podiums. Tomac came back the following week for a perfect sweep at Pala.

In Round 3, Tomac once again got off to a bad start. He finished fifth in Moto 1 at Thunder Valley – and then won Moto 2 in a duplication of his opening round.

In Round 5, Tomac had his worst performance until that time. He finished seventh in Moto 1. Nearly halfway through the season, a pattern was firmly established with his Moto 2 win.

Vanessa O’Brien, Kawasaki USA

One should recall that the hallmark of Tomac’s season was strong finishes. Four the next four weeks Tomac failed to podium only one time in a moto. On that occasion, he would stumble in Moto 2 at Spring Creek in Round 8 before scoring his second perfect race at Washougal.

And that is where it got interesting. Tomac left Washougal with a 50-point advantage over Marvin Musquin. It was just the scenario Tomac had seesawed his way through the season to achieve. But it was too good to be true.

In most of his previous bad performances, there was an extenuating circumstance for Tomac’s bad start: a fall or an off course excursion. This time, he simply rode an uninspired race and finished seventh again to match his worst single moto performance. He could not fully rebound in Moto 2 and finished third.

For the first time in 2019, Tomac failed to stand on the overall podium in fourth. Worse still, he lost 10 points to Musquin and no longer had his one-race cushion.

But this is a season of recovery for Tomac. At Budds Creek last week it was reported that Tomac’s lackluster performance in Washington was due to his overdoing his chores on his Colorado ranch. Rested and restored, Tomac scored his third perfect race with Moto 1 & 2 wins. And this time, he looked sharper than he had in any previous race.

Tomac did all the could do by winning both motos, but in the closing laps at Budds Creek he needed a little help to clinch the title. As it turned out, Tomac needed the perfect performance to clinch his third consecutive championship.

In Moto 1, he narrowly edged Ken Roczen and Musquin, to give the three championship contenders a sweep of the top three spots; that was not enough to regain his cushion.

Roczen was close enough to force Tomac into The Ironman needing to score points to permanently affix the red plate on his Kawasaki in 2020, but just as Tomac’s season has been marked by second half improvements, Roczen’s has been marred by a lack of performance in the second motos.

Musquin passed Roczen late in Moto 2 last week and could have extended the drama one more week if he could have caught second-place Jason Anderson. Musquin could not erase an 11-second deficit to the runner-up and now Tomac’s almost perfect season has a distinctly perfect feel to it.

Vanessa O’Brien, Kawasaki USA

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