Rafal Sonik’s 7-year pursuit ends with first Dakar quads title (VIDEO)

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After a seven-year pursuit, Rafal Sonik has claimed a championship in the Dakar Rally.

The Polish rider cruised into Buenos Aires on Sunday with an eighth-place finish in the 13th and final stage. And so, Sonik has reached the top in the quads category following five previous Top-5 finishes in the overall (third in 2009, fifth in 2010, fourth in 2012, third in 2013, and second in 2014).

“I’ve been waiting for this moment [for] seven years, and have been fighting every day…I have never lost the belief that sooner or later, this moment would come,” Sonik said humbly.

“…I dedicate this victory to those that have dreamed and [still] dream about Dakar, and to those who could not fulfill these dreams or have suffered a lot trying to fulfill this dream. I fulfilled this dream, but I dedicate [the win] to those who can’t.”

In 2014, Sonik was runner-up to Chilean rider Ignacio Casale, and the 2015 running was shaping up to be a duel to the finish between these two men.

But a pair of disasters would strike down the hopes of both Casale and another pursuer of Sonik’s, Uruguay’s Sergio Lafuente, in Stage 10. A broken chain on Casale’s quad and a crash for Lafuente saw them both out of the Dakar.

What had been a four-minute overall lead for Sonik dramatically grew to almost three hours as a result of Casale and Lafuente’s withdrawals.

And all that was left for Sonik to do was bring his vehicle home in one piece to his team, which he hailed on Sunday.

“I’m very proud, and I’m very proud for my team,” Sonik said. “Because there is a wonderful group of people around me that also never stopped dreaming and never stopped believing that sooner or later, we would get this victory.

“I think they deserve it the most. My belief turned into their belief, and I respect the people around me the most.”

19-year-old Argentinian Jeremias Gonzalez (second) and Bolivia’s Walter Nosiglia (third) complete the overall podium in the category. Sunday’s stage win went to South Africa’s Willem Saaijman, who denied Christophe Declerck’s bid for a Dakar-closing hat trick by just six seconds.

Marvin Musquin’s Indy win may have come too late

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Marvin Musquin answered one question at Indianapolis last week, but the biggest one may well plague him for the next six weeks.

Musquin has won a battle, but can he win the war?

After standing on the podium in eight of the first 10 races, Musquin finally showed the field he was capable of winning in Indy when he grabbed the holeshot and led every lap on the way to Victory Lane. He was never seriously challenged and it was the Musquin that Supercross fans expected to see all season.

It was a long time coming. Musquin must have felt like victory was just around the corner after finishing second in the overall standings in Anaheim II’s Triple Crown race. He was third in the first Main that night and second in the last two Mains.

As it turned out, that single race defined his season until last week. Musquin stood on the podium all night, but he finished two spots behind Cooper Webb in the first Main and was one spot back in the second. It was only as time ran out that he was able to beat Webb by a single spot in the third Main. If Musquin had won either of the first two Mains, he would have had the overall victory – denying Webb his first career win in the process.

Webb’s Anaheim win revitalized the rider and gave him the confidence to rattle off four more wins in the next seven races.

Meanwhile, Musquin scored podium finishes in the next seven races, making him almost perfect. In another season, a record like that would have been enough to give him a comfortable points lead. In 2019, he sit 14 markers out of first, which is the points’ equivalent of the difference between first and 11th in one race. In other words, Webb cannot lose the points lead at Seattle unless he finishes outside the top 10 while his teammate wins.

Looking at the numbers another way the scenario is not quite as hopeless. Musquin needs to shave only 2.3 points off Webb’s lead each week to win the championship. Three points separate first and second. Five points differentiates first from third, which is where Webb finished in Indianapolis. Webb is vulnerable as his 10th-place finish at Glendale and an eighth at San Diego attest.

Those bobbles came early and Webb seems to have forgotten how to make a mistake.

A third-place is Webb’s worst finish in the last six weeks and since Anaheim II when Musquin started his impressive string of podium finishes, Webb has recorded an average finish of 2.2. That came with a worst finish of eighth on an extremely muddy and heavy track in San Diego. Musquin has a worst finish of only sixth, but his average of 2.8 still lags behind Webb.

Worse still, since Anaheim II Musquin has finished behind Webb in every race except for the outlier of San Diego.

It is no longer a question of keeping pressure on Webb. Musquin cannot expect his teammate to make a mistake; he has to find a way to pass him on the track. If Webb adds only two points to his lead at Seattle, Musquin’s fate would no longer be in his hands. He would need to gain 3.2 points per race. With that scenario, Webb could finish one spot behind Musquin every week and still win the championship.