Cyril Despres. Getty Images

Dakar 2017: Halfway report, Stage 6 cancellation videos

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The second half of the 2017 Dakar Rally kicks off today with the seventh stage of competition, from La Paz to Uyuni. Stage six, scheduled for Saturday, was cancelled due to miserable weather.

Videos from NBCSN’s coverage from the weekend are linked in this post. The next Dakar Rally show is Monday at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

In the 12-stage rally, the contenders for the win are starting to become clearer. How those listed below rise or fall over the next few days of competition will determine if they bring home a win.

CARS

Defending Dakar champion Stephane Peterhansel looks to extend his record run of double-digit Dakar wins, but will have to fend off two of his Peugeot teammates to do so. Sebastien Loeb, meanwhile, is poised to capture his first overall Dakar win and will look to overcome an achievable gap of just over one minute. Nani Roma (Toyota) boasts the best chance of those not driving a Peugeot trying to win.

Of note, Orlando Terranova ranks seventh in the MINI originally scheduled for American Bryce Menzies. Giniel De Villiers is eighth in another Toyota, and Romain Dumas sits 10th in a Peugeot.

Stephane Peterhansel during stage five of the 2017 Dakar Rally between Tupiza and Oruro on January 6, 2017 at an unspecified location in Bolivia. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)

1. 300-Stephane Peterhansel, Peugeot, 14:02:58
2. 309-Sebastien Loeb, Peugeot, +1:09
3. 307-Cyril Despres, Peugeot, +4:54
4. 305-Nani Roma, Toyota, +5:35
5. 303-Mikko Hirvonen, MINI, +42.21

BIKES

The bike rally has almost been a process of elimination with Juan Pedrero, Joan Barreda, American Ricky Brabec and defending champion Toby Price all falling from contention and in Price’s case, dropping out entirely with a fractured left femur. Seeing the competitors rally to support Price as Price has offered updates on a quick recovery has been one of the Dakar’s highlights this year.

Among those who’ve rallied to Price is Sam Sunderland, the Englishman who’s currently the rally leader on bikes by 12 minutes over Pablo Quintanilla.

Of note, Brabec sits 21st in the rally, more than an hour behind. Barreda has fallen to 11th, and Pedrero down to 24th. Others who’ve factored in the early stages – Xavier de Soultrait (sixth), Paulo Goncalves (ninth) – are also out of the top five.

LA PAZ, BOLIVIA – JANUARY 08: Sam Sunderland of Great Britain and KTM poses for a photograph during a rest day for the 2017 Dakar Rally on January 8, 2017 in La Paz, Bolivia. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)

1. 14-Sam Sunderland, KTM, 15:22:05
2. 3-Pablo Quintanilla, Husqvarna, +12:00
3. 6-Adrien Van Beveren, Yamaha, +16:07
4. 8-Gerard Farres Guell, KTM, +20:57
5. 16-Matthias Walkner, KTM, +29:01

QUADS

Simon Vitse leads what is at the moment a 1-4 sweep by Yamaha, with Daniel Mazzucco fifth in the first Can-Am at 47 minutes, 32 seconds in arrears.

1. 279-Simon Vitse, Yamaha, 19:32:22
2. 254-Sergey Karayakin, Yamaha, +8:14
3. 280-Axel Dutrie, Yamaha, +10:35

TRUCKS

Gerard De Rooy keeps one red, white and blue flag (Netherlands) ahead of a trio of drivers with another red, white and blue flag (Russia) in the truck category.

1. 500-Gerard De Rooy, Iveco, 14:06:07
2. 505-Eduard Nikolaev, Kamaz, +2:23
3. 513-Dmitri Sotnikov, Kamaz, +6:36

UTV

Leandro Torres leads this class by more than two hours.

1. 351-Leandro Torres, Polaris, 25:22:24
2. 342-Mao Ruijin, Polaris, +2:34:04
3. 374-Li Dongsheng, Polaris, +2:47:25

STAGE RECAPS

Stage six (cancelled due to weather)
Stage five (shortened due to weather)
Stage four and (VIDEOS)
Stage three and (VIDEOS)
Stage two and (VIDEOS)
Stage one and (VIDEOS)

Scott McLaughlin will make IndyCar debut for Team Penske at St. Pete

Scott McLaughlin IndyCar debut
Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images
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Two-time defending Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin will make his NTT IndyCar Series debut with Team Penske in the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida.

McLaughlin, 27, drove for Penske in preseason IndyCar testing at Circuit of the Americas, Sebring International Raceway (in a rookie evaluation) and Texas Motor Speedway, and he was announced Feb. 5 as making his debut with the team at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course before the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic delayed the start of the season.

Travel restrictions also made it difficult for the New Zealand native to leave Australia, where he leads the points for DJR Team Penske in the Virgin Australia Supercars series with three races remaining. He set a Supercars record last season with 18 victories.

The Supercars season will conclude Oct. 18 with the prestigious 24 Hours of Bathurst. McLaughlin then will head directly to the States to drive the No. 3 Dallara-Chevrolet at St. Pete as a teammate of Will Power, Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud.

“This is something I haven’t stopped thinking about, but I wanted to ensure my focus was on winning our third-straight Supercars championship for DJR Team Penske and all our partners in Australia,” McLaughlin, who also has won at Barber and Indianapolis while unofficially finishing first in the IndyCar iRacing Challenge, said in a release. “We are still laser-focused on that and have three more rounds to get it done, but I’m equally as excited to finally get the chance and make my IndyCar debut.”

McLaughlin, whose wife, Karly, is from New York, said he has discussed racing in America with car owner Roger Penske since he was hired by the team for the 2017 season.

“I’ve always said I’d love to have a crack at something else,” McLaughlin told reporters in February during the preseason test at Austin, Texas. “My goal was always to win the championship in Bathurst and Australia. I ticked those boxes, and then opportunities arise over time. The conversation between me and Roger was pretty short. ‘Would you be interested in IndyCar?’ I’d literally drive a wheelbarrow with a Team Penske sticker on it. I’d race anything that comes with the opportunity.

“I’ve always intended I’d love to get America one day potentially if I’ve done my goals in Australia. I’ve always said whether it’s now or 30 years down the track, I’d love to finish up (in America). I’ve promised Karly that we would come back here eventually. She’s not pushing me by any means, but I’ve always had a passion for American motorsport and certainly would love the opportunity.”

McLaughlin also has indicated a desire to try racing in NASCAR for Team Penske. He discussed his comfort with stock cars during a 2017 episode of the NASCAR on NBC Podcast (click on the link below to hear it).

Here’s the release from Team Penske:

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (September 17, 2020) – Team Penske announced today that Scott McLaughlin, the current Virgin Australia Supercars Championship points leader, is scheduled to make his long-awaited NTT INDYCAR SERIES debut in the series’ 2020 season finale on the Streets of St. Petersburg on Sunday, October 25.

The two-time and defending Supercars Champion for DJR Team Penske (DJRTP) was set to compete in his first NTT INDYCAR SERIES race earlier this year on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course before the COVID-19 global pandemic forced several delays and postponements on racing schedules, along with international travel restrictions. Before the pandemic shutdown, McLaughlin participated in the INDYCAR SERIES preseason open test at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas, where he ran consistently well and posted the third-fastest time of the test session. The 27-year-old native of New Zealand also competed in separate tests at the Sebring International Raceway road course and the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway oval.

“This is something I haven’t stopped thinking about, but I wanted to ensure my focus was on winning our third-straight Supercars championship for DJR Team Penske and all our partners in Australia,” said McLaughlin. “We are still laser-focused on that and have three more rounds to get it done, but I’m equally as excited to finally get the chance and make my INDYCAR debut. I’ve been doing everything I can to keep up with the series this year, from watching as many races as I can on TV to even talking to the drivers and some of the engineers back at the Team Penske shop. I never knew if I would be able to get behind the wheel of one of these cars this year due to all the COVID-19 restrictions, but I wanted to be ready if it became an opportunity.”

McLaughlin currently leads the Supercars point standings with just three rounds of competition remaining on the 2020 schedule. McLaughlin has produced a series-best 10 wins and 10 poles and holds a 143-point lead over Jamie Whincup entering this weekend’s race at The Bend. Over the course of his Supercars career, McLaughlin has won an impressive 53 races and 71 poles, while helping DJRTP claim team championships in 2017 and 2019 and winning the driver’s title in each of the last two seasons. He also earned his first win in the legendary Bathurst 1000 race in 2019 with co-driver Alex Premat. Though he is in just his fourth season competing for Team Penske, McLaughlin already ranks third on the organization’s all-time wins list, trailing only Brad Keselowski and Mark Donohue.

Earlier this year, McLaughlin made his “virtual” INDYCAR debut, competing in the series’ iRacing Challenge and winning two races among the full field of current NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers that were competing against each other while traditional racing was put on hold.

“Our plan has always been for Scott to run a race in the INDYCAR SERIES this season, but we never wanted to take the focus away from the main goal, which is winning another Supercars Championship,” said Team Penske President Tim Cindric. “COVID-19 certainly altered those plans early on, but with the way the schedules have lined up at the end of this season, St. Pete became an available option and we remain committed to getting him some INDYCAR seat time. We know Scott is ready for this challenge and this should add even more excitement to the 2020 season finale in St. Petersburg.”

McLaughlin will pilot the No. 3 Shell V-Power Nitro+ Dallara/Chevrolet at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, which was postponed from its original date in March and will now take place on Sunday, October 25. The race on the 1.8-mile street circuit will be seen live at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC, with radio coverage on the Pennzoil INDYCAR Radio Network and SIRIUS XM.