Dakar Stage 1 Highlights: Ricky Brabec, Casey Currie lead Americans

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The 41st running of the Dakar Rally got underway Monday with a total of 334 vehicles ready to contest a route that will be held entirely in Peru.

In the cars class, Nasser Al-Attiyah drew the first victory in his Toyota. Carlos Sainz was only 1 minute 59 seconds behind in a Mini with Jakub Przygonski rounding out the podium one second behind Sainz. … Making his 12th Dakar start and first after a two-year hiatus, Robby Gordon finished 21st in the stage (8:28 behind the leader) in his Textron. … Sebastian Loeb also got off to a slow start in Stage 1. Sand has never been his favorite part of any rally and he finished more than six minutes behind Al-Attiyah in 13th.

In motorcycles, Joan Barreda scored the stage win in a Honda. Pablo Qunitanilla in a Husqvarna ended the stage 1:34 behind in second. USA’s Ricky Brabec had the best showing among the Americans with his third-place finish 2:52 behind. Andrew Short was the next highest finishing American in 13th. … Gabor Saghmeister became the first rider to withdraw from the 2019 Dakar.

In side by sides, the 2018 winner, 59-year old Reinaldo Varela won the stage over Francisco Lopez (1:27 behind) and Gerald Farres (2:32 behind). American Casey Currie was 4:55 behind in sixth in a stage where he took extra time to keep from making any mistakes.

“Day 1 of Dakar finally in the books,” Currie said. “We had a game plan; we wanted a good top-10 finish. We just wanted to drive through the stage without getting lost, without getting a puncture and not break anything. And we did it. In the river bed, there was a lot of rocks. I’m not kidding you I could have walked faster. I just wanted to take my time and get through Stage 1.”

In quads, Nicolas Cavigliasso finished 1:27 ahead of Jeremias Gonzalez and 2:32 ahead of Tomas Kubiena.

In trucks, Eduard Nikolaev, Ton Van Genugten, and Federico Villagra took the top three spots. But it was Gerard de Rooy who created the most drama of the day. Running second at the halfway mark of the start, he set a wheel on fire and finished the stage fourth.

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X44 Racing win 2022 Extreme E championship as Abt Cupra score first race victory

2022 Extreme E Uruguay
Extreme E
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Abt Cupra Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and Klara Andersson scored their first win in the Extreme E Energy X Prix in the 2022 finale in Uruguay as Lewis Hamilton’s X44 Vida Carbon Racing drivers Sebastien Loeb and Cristina Gutierrez survived a chaotic finale to edge the 2021 champion Rosberg X Prix team of Johan Kristoffersson and Mikhaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky, by two points.

“There are so many emotions,” Andersson said in Extreme E’s coverage. “I’ve been waiting for this for so long. In my second race, first full weekend to be at the top of the podium: it’s big.”

Andersson was behind the wheel at the finish.

Rosberg Racing entered the event with a 17-point advantage over X44, but the standings were close enough that four teams remained in contention in Round 5.

“It’s a crucial weekend for us,” Loeb said in Extreme E’s coverage prior to the race. “We are not in the best position to win the championship, but the only thing we can do is try to win the race and score as many points as possible.”

The top two title contenders each crashed in qualification and were relegated to the Crazy Race, Extreme E’s version of the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ). For the moment, they had the steepest hill to climb, but then the other two championship contending teams, Chip Ganassi Racing and Acciona Sainz Racing failed to advance from their heats.

Only one team advances from the Crazy Race, so the X44 drivers were in a must-win situation to simply keep hope alive.

More: Extreme E 2023 schedule

Ahlin-Kottulinsky and Gutierrez ran wheel to wheel into the first turn at the start of the LCQ.

The Rosberg racer experienced crash damage in that turn that damaged her front steering, but managed to limp back to the pits at the end of her two-lap stint. The team attempted to fix the steering, but incurred a penalty for having too many mechanics in the pit area.

Meanwhile, Gutierrez took the early lead, but knew she would need to sit through a five-second penalty for an incident earlier in the weekend. The female half of the gender equal pair erased the penalty by entering the Switch Zone with a five-second lead before turning the car over to Loeb.

That was all the nine-time World Rally Championship titlist needed to give him the advantage needed to win the Crazy Race.

But the championship was not over yet. X44 Racing needed to finish third or better in the five-car finale to earn enough points for the title and after advancing from the LCQ, they were forced to take the worst grid position.

A chaotic start to the Finale saw Loeb run as high the lead and low as fourth after getting pushed off course during his first lap. And that is how he entered to Switch Zone.

On her first lap, Gutierrez slammed into Molly Taylor. With one lap remaining, X44 and Gutierrez were still in fourth and the title hope was quickly evaporating, but it was announced halfway through the lap that the third-running Andretti United team would suffer a penalty for a Switch Zone infraction. The seven-second deduction for Timmy Hansen braking too late in the zone made the difference in the title.

Coming off a disappointing Copper X Prix when Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour crossed under the checkers first, but were relegated to fifth by penalty, the McLaren pair scored their first podium of the season in second.