Dakar Stage 6 Highlights: Sebastien Loeb capatilizes on Al-Attiyah mistake

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Nasser Al-Attiyah made a rare mistake nine miles from the end of Stage 6 of the Dakar Rally and handed the win over to Sebastien Loeb.

Looking for a waypoint, Al-Attiyah drove into the wrong valley, which allowed Loeb to get to the end of the stage 2:17 ahead of the class leader.

“We did a great job all day long, but we made a blunder in the final 15 kilometres,” Al-Attiyah said at Dakar.com. “We went down the wrong valley, and then it took us a long time to backtrack and get back on the right track. It cost us several minutes, but I’m still happy with our position. It was a good performance, even though I know Sébastien is fighting and I’ll have to battle hard. It’s not really that comfortable, but it’s good to have this very difficult stage behind us.”

Here are some of the other highlights:

In the cars class, Sebastien Loeb’s stage victory came after he passed the spot where he crashed last year. … Nasser Al-Attiyah’s rare mistake was not enough to cost him the class lead; he holds it by more than 37 minutes over Loeb. … Carlos Sainz finished third in the stage, but remains more than five hours behind the leader in 11th. … Stephane Peterhansel lost nearly 17 minutes to Al-Attiyah and finished sixth in the stage. His time was lost when he stopped to render assistance to Cyril Despres and got stuck himself.

Class Leaders: Al-Attiyah holds an advantage of 37:43 over Loeb and 41:14 over Peterhansel

In motorcycles, Pablos Quintanilla became the sixth different rider to win one of the first six stages. … Kevin Benavides scored his second stage podium with a rally-best second-place finish. … Matthias Walkner rounded out the top three. … Toby Price protected his position of third in the class rankings by finishing fourth in the stage. … Ricky Brabec lost 7:30 to the class leader Quintanilla. … Sam Sunderland was first on the course and lost his way. He also his rear brake and almost 23 minutes before finding his way home. … Skylar Howes scored his first Dakar stage top 10 in Stage 5, but was injured in the dunes and forced to retire while running in the top 20 in class.

Class Leaders: Quintanilla holds an advantage of 4:38 over Brabec and 5:17 over Price

In side by sides Francisco Lopez Contardo became the first rider to score two stage wins; his first came in Stage 2. … Gerard Farres Guell finished 12:31 off the pace, while Casey Currie scored his first podium finish of the rally. … Second in the class rankings, Sergei Kariakin finished in fourth.

Class Leaders: Guell holds an advantage of 13:31 over Kariakin and 32:36 over Varela

In quads, Nicolas Cavigliasso’s dominance continued with his fifth stage win. Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli lost 17:19 and now trails by more than one hour. … Manuel Andujar scored his first podium of the rally.

Class Leaders: Cavigliasso holds an advantage of one hours, 6:49 over Ferioli and one hour, 30:36 over Gustavo Gallego

In trucks, Dmitry Sotnikov scored his first stage win of the season by 21:09 over Gerard de Rooy … Federico Villagra rounded out the top three. … … Eduard Nikolaev finished just off the podium in fourth, but maintained the class lead.

Class Leaders: Nikolaev holds an advantage of 10:13 over Sotnikov and 1 hour, 50:03 over De Rooy

Stage Wins

Motorcycles
Joan Barreda [1] (Stage 1), Matthias Walkner [1] (Stage 2), Xavier de Soultrait [1] (Stage 3), Ricky Brabec [1] (Stage 4), Sam Sunderland [1] (Stage 5) and Pablo Quintanilla [1] (Stage 6)

Quads
Nicolas Cavigliasso [5] (Stage 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6) and Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli [1] (Stage 3)

Cars
Sebastien Loeb [3] (Stage 2, 5 and 6), Nasser Al-Attiyah [2] (Stage 1 and 4) and Stephane Peterhansel [1] (Stage 3)

Side-by-sides
Francisco Lopez Contardo [2] (Stage 2 and 6), Reinaldo Varela [1] (Stage 1), Gerard Farres Guell [1] (Stage 3), Sergei Kariakin [1] (Stage 4) and Rodrigo Piazzoli [1] (Stage 5)

Trucks
Eduard Nikolaev [3] (Stage 1, 2 and 5), Andrey Karginov [2] (Stage 3 and 4) and Dmitry Sotnikov [1] (Stage 6)

For more watch the daily highlight show on NBCSN. Click here for the complete schedule.

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Fernando Alonso will decide this summer whether to pursue F1 again

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Fernando Alonso said he will determine by this summer if he would consider a return to Formula One next season.

After announcing Tuesday that he will return to Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May with Arrow McLaren Racing SP, Alonso said “right now the Indy 500 will take all of my concentration” but left the door open for F1 in 2021.

“In my case, probably during the summer period, I’ll make a decision on 2021 if Formula One is still appealing to me,” Alonso told IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview (watch the video above). “The 2021 rules (in F1) are definitely a step forward, and hopefully things can be more mixed and not only three teams capable of winning races. So all this factors into play. I may consider that possibility.”

Alonso won consecutive Formula One championships in 2005-06 with Renault. He has 32 victories in an F1 career that started in 2001 and also includes stints at Ferrari and McLaren.

His last victory on the circuit was May 12, 2013 in Barcelona. He is winless in his most recent 110 starts, including the past 77 races with McLaren in 2015-18.

The Guardian recently reported that McLaren CEO Zak Brown said Alonso wouldn’t be returning to F1 with the team.

Alonso also told Diffey that returning to F1 from a two-season absence wouldn’t necessarily be linked to McLaren’s performance.

“I think they did well last year, and hopefully they make another step forward and close to the top three because they deserve it and are a fantastic team,” he said.

Though he is optimistic about more parity, Alonso said six-time champion Lewis Hamilton should be a favorite for the 2020 title based on preseason testing in which Mercedes turned heads with a new steering system.

“It seemed Mercedes is still quite competitive,” Alonso said. “They show enormous potential on the development side and on the progress from one year to next. Formula One is impossible to predict because many things happen in season.

“At the starting point, (Mercedes) are the favorites. When you have Lewis in the car and Mercedes with the potential they have, they have to be No. 1 probably.”