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.

F1: Lewis Hamilton qualifies No. 1 for U.S. Grand Prix, on verge of winning 5th title

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Lewis Hamilton took a big step toward earning his fifth Formula One championship on Saturday, qualifying No. 1 for Sunday’s U.S. Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.

Hamilton and his Mercedes have won five of the previous six U.S. Grand Prix’s held at COTA, including the last four races there.

The Great Britain native comes into Sunday’s race leading the F1 point standings and is seeking to tie Juan Manuel Fangio for second-most F1 career championships. Michael Schumacher has the most with seven crowns.

Sebastian Vettel is Hamilton’s sole remaining challenger for the title, trailing Hamilton by 67 points with four races to go, including Sunday’s race.

Vettel must win Sunday’s race or finish within seven points of Hamilton to prevent the latter from winning the title and pushing a possible clinching scenario to next week in Mexico.

Vettel qualified second Saturday, but due to a red-flag three-position grid penalty sustained during Friday’s morning practice, will start fifth on Sunday’s grid.

As a result of Vettel’s penalty, Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen will start alongside Hamilton on the front row for Sunday’s race.

Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate, Vallteri Bottas, will start third, while Daniel Ricciardo will start fourth.

Rounding out the top 10 were Esteban Ocon, Nico Hulkenberg, Romain Grosjean, Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez.

Here’s how qualifying played out:

POS NO DRIVER CAR Q1 Q2 Q3 LAPS
1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:34.130 1:33.480 1:32.237 20
2 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:34.569 1:33.079 1:32.298 18
3 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:34.703 1:32.884 1:32.307 15
4 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 1:34.518 1:33.702 1:32.616 17
5 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:34.755 1:34.185 1:33.494 14
6 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:34.876 1:34.522 1:34.145 18
7 27 Nico Hulkenberg RENAULT 1:34.932 1:34.564 1:34.215 18
8 8 RomainGrosjean HAAS FERRARI 1:34.892 1:34.419 1:34.250 17
9 16 Charles Leclerc SAUBER FERRARI 1:35.069 1:34.255 1:34.420 17
10 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:35.193 1:34.525 1:34.594 17
11 55 Carlos Sainz RENAULT 1:34.891 1:34.566 12
12 20 KevinMagnussen HAAS FERRARI 1:34.972 1:34.732 12
13 10 Pierre Gasly SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA 1:34.850 DNS 13
14 28 Brendon Hartley SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA 1:35.206 DNS 13
15 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:34.766 4
16 14 FernandoAlonso MCLAREN RENAULT 1:35.294 6
17 35 Sergey Sirotkin WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:35.362 6
18 18 Lance Stroll WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:35.480 8
19 9 Marcus Ericsson SAUBER FERRARI 1:35.536 8
20 2 StoffelVandoorne MCLAREN RENAULT 1:35.735 6

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