Dakar: Rodrigues, Goncalves come up big for Honda in Stage 9 (VIDEO)

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Monday’s Stage 8 of the 2015 Dakar Rally was an ugly day for Honda, even with Laia Sanz’s superb fifth-place effort.

Joan Barreda saw his hopes of an overall victory end thanks to an electrical problem that caused him to be towed by teammate Jeremias Israel to the finish of the run from Uyuni, Bolivia to Iquique, Chile.

Another of the factory Honda riders, Helder Rodrigues, also suffered from electrical woes and lost more than three hours.

The setbacks left Paulo Goncalves as Honda’s last threat to dethrone Dakar Rally champion and current overall leader Marc Coma of KTM.

But Tuesday saw Honda respond brilliantly in Stage 9, as Rodrigues bagged his second win of the 2015 Dakar and Goncalves took almost four minutes off Coma’s edge with a runner-up finish.

“I’ve worked very hard for this Dakar and to be up front,” Rodrigues said in a Honda release. “Yesterday, I lost it all and now I don’t want to take any chances, but I will give everything to win.

“Today, I started out from behind, I caught up with Paulo and Joan, but I got lost in the dunes. Later, at the refueling [point], I saw that I was going well and I kept pushing.

“It was a hard day with a lot of navigation and loads of stones on the track, but I’m very happy with the way things went.”

As for Goncalves, who now sits just five minutes, 28 seconds behind Coma with four stages remaining, he indicated that he would been closer to Rodrigues on Tuesday if not for having to circle back to reach a missed way point.

Despite getting closer to KTM’s top man in the overall standings, however, Goncalves said he’s only focusing on the stage at hand.

“In the end, I finished well and I recovered some time from yesterday,” he said. “So now I’m second overall, but this is not really important because we have four days more in front of us to race. Many things can happen. I will try and I will keep fighting, me and Team HRC, to get the best overall position possible.

“…For me, it’s not additional pressure. I will ride day-by-day like I have done from the beginning, so we’ll always keep fighting. The strategy is to try and keep the bike safe – only that.”

Coma finished third in Tuesday’s stage, a 450km southerly run from Iquique to Calama, Chile.

He had to overcome a navigational error early on in by foggy conditions, but still came away with a respectable result that put more than 15 minutes on third-place overall rider Pablo Quintanilla (+ 26:52).

“It was a good day after a tough day like yesterday, so today was a better day,” Coma said. “At the moment, everything is still far off, so we’re looking at the next day only and we will see.

“There’s a long way still in front of us, so we’ll take it step by step.”

As you can see, Goncalves and Coma aren’t getting ahead of themselves. They have a reason. Wednesday’s Stage 10 from Calama to Salta, Argentina marks the start of a second marathon stage for the bikes as well as the quads.

And it’s set to take the riders even higher up in altitude than the first marathon stage (Iquique/Uyuni) did.

Stage 10 will begin at almost 12,000 feet above sea level on the Salinas Grande before ascending even further to more than 14,000 feet up early on in the special.

The ending link stage will then have competitors following the Abra del Acay. At more than 16,000+ feet up, the Abra is considered one of the highest road passes on Earth.

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

2015 Dakar Rally – Overall Standings, Motorcycles
(After Stage 9 – Iquique to Calama)

1. 1-Marc Coma (KTM), 34hrs, 5mins, 0secs
2. 7-Paulo Goncalves (Honda), + 5 mins, 28secs
3. 31-Pablo Quintanilla (KTM), + 26mins, 52 secs
4. 26-Toby Price (KTM), +31mins, 31secs
5. 18-Stefan Svitko (KTM), + 40mins, 36secs
6. 9-David Casteu (KTM), + 1hr, 31mins, 26secs
7. 11-Ruben Faria (KTM), + 1hr, 41mins, 22secs
8. 29-Laia Sanz (Honda), + 1hr, 54mins, 37secs
9. 21-Ivan Jakes (KTM), + 2hrs, 18mins, 31secs
10. 3-Olivier Pain (Yamaha), + 2hrs, 36mins, 13secs

Steve Torrence takes NHRA points lead with Gatornationals victory

NHRA Gainesville Steve Torrence
Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Two-time defending NHRA Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence took the points lead Sunday in the AMALIE Motor Oil Gatornationals, beating his father, Billy, in the final round at Gainesville Raceway.

Torrence had a 3.809-second run at 322.11 mph to win for the third time this year and 39th overall. He is now on track for another championship despite missing the season opener.

“We’ve got some good momentum and to be in the points lead, it’s a testament to how hard these guys work,” Steve Torrence said after the NHRA Gainesville victory. “We’ve just got to stay focused and concentrate on what the task at hand is, and that’s trying to win a championship. These guys give me an unbelievable race car and you just try not to screw it up.”

Ron Capps won in Funny Car, Alex Laughlin in Pro Stock and Matt Smith in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Capps raced to his second win this year and 66th overall, beating Tim Wilkerson with a 3.937 at 323.12 in a Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat.

Laughlin topped Aaron Stanfield with a 7.068 at 204.76 in a Chevrolet Camaro for his first win this season and fourth in his career. Smith rode to his first victory in 2020 and 25th overall, topping Andrew Hines with a 6.843 at 196.99 on an EBR.