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.

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry.

The idea of Hamilton attending the season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).