Dakar Stage 7 Highlights: Casey Currie climbs in side-by-sides

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Stage 7 of the Dakar Rally was made up of hard-pack that favored speed setups and fesh-fesh (fine, loose sand) that gave the handling racers an advantage.  In the end, familiar names topped the leaderboard with both Stephane Peterhansal and Sam Sunderland taking their second stage wins in cars and motorcycles respectively.

American Casey Currie is climbing through the class rankings. Standing 14th at the end of Stage 2, he improved to seventh by Stage 5, sixth at Stage 6 and moved up one more spot to fifth. He is slowly catching the leaders while battling setbacks such as the suspension damage incurred on Stage 7.

Here are some of the other highlights:

In the cars class, Stephane Peterhansel took a hard landing after jumping a dune and suffered whiplash, but that was not enough to slow him. He beat Nani Roma by four minutes and is slowly closing the gap on Nasser Al-Attiyah, who finished nearly 12 minutes back in fourth. … Wedged between, Carlos Sainz rounded out the top three. … Robby Gordon and Blade Hildebrand continue to soldier on, but well off the pace. Gordon is currently more than 60 hours behind the class leader; Hildebrand is 27 hours behind. Both drivers lost more than four hours during Stage 7.

Class Leaders: Al-Attiyah holds an advantage of 29:16 over Peterhansel and 37:59 over Roma

In motorcycles, Sam Sunderland became the first motorcycle rider in the 2019 rally to win two stages. His rollercoaster ride has also contributed to two stages in which he finished sixth and 12th. … For Jose Florimo it may be a case of too little, too late. He sits 12th in the class rankings, but has finished second in two of the last three stages. … Ricky Brabec retook the class lead with his third-place finish. … Adrien van Beveren has been steady and fast with six of his seven stages ending either fourth or fifth; in Stage 7, he was fourth. … Toby Price has also developed a tendency to finish well or poorly. Since Stage 2, he has alternated results of third or fourth with those of eighth or ninth.

Class Leaders: Brabec holds an advantage of 7:47 over van Beveren and 8:28 over Price

In side by sides Francisco Lopez Contardo grabbed his second consecutive stage win and third overall to climb to second in the class standings. … Reinaldo Varela retook the class lead with his second-place finish. … Rodrigo Piazzoli rounded out the top three. … American Casey Currie climbed to fifth in class after finishing ninth in the stage. … Sergey Kariakin barrel-rolled his side by side and broke his running gear, but was able to finish the stage five hours off the pace. His title hopes are practically over after starting the morning second in class.

Class Leaders: Varela hold an advantage of 4:03 over Contardo and 45:26 over Piazolli

In quads, With his sixth stage win of the rally, Nicolas Cavigliasso extended his lead over the field to more than an hour and 15 minutes. … Alexandre Giroud earned his best stage finish of the year with a second; he finished third in Stage 2 and 4. … Manuel Andujar scored his second consecutive podium with back-to-back third-place finishes. … Gustavo Gallego finished just off the podium in fourth … Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli lost 8:47 to the class leader with his fifth-place finish.

Class Leaders: Cavigliasso holds and advantage of one hour, 15:36 over Ferioli and one hour, 38:39 over Gallego

In trucks, Gerard de Rooy was originally listed as the winner of Stage 6, but officials elevated Dmitry Sotnikov overnight – making de Rooy wait a day to score his first stage win of the rally. … Siarhei Viazovich finished 30:55 back in second with Eduard Nikolaev rounding out the top three. … Sotnikov finished sixth on the stage and lost nearly an hour to class leader Nikolaev.

Class Leaders: Nikolaev holds and advantage of 32:54 over Sotnikov and one hour, 15:28 over de Rooy

Stage Wins

Motorcycles
Sam Sunderland [2] (Stage 5 and 7), Joan Barreda [1] (Stage 1), Matthias Walkner [1] (Stage 2), Xavier de Soultrait [1] (Stage 3), Ricky Brabec [1] (Stage 4) and Pablo Quintanilla [1] (Stage 6)

Quads
Nicolas Cavigliasso [6] (Stage 1, 2, 4, 5, 6 and 7) 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 [2] (Stage 3 and 7)

Side-by-sides
Francisco Lopez Contardo [3] (Stage 2, 6 and 7), 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), Dmitry Sotnikov [1] (Stage 6) and Gerard de Rooy [1] (Stage 7)

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Jack Miller wins MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix as Fabio Quartararo stops his points slide

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Jack Miller ran away with the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi as Fabio Quartararo stopped his downward slide in the championship when a last-lap accident from his closest rival in the standings caused Francesco Bagnaia to score zero points.

Starting seventh, Miller quickly made his way forward. He was second at the end of two laps. One lap later, he grabbed the lead from Jorge Martin. Once in the lead, Miller posted three consecutive fastest laps and was never seriously challenged. It was Australian native Miller’s first race win of the season and his sixth podium finish.

The proximity to his home turf was not lost.

“I can ride a motorcycle sometimes,” Miller said in NBC Sports’ post-race coverage. “I felt amazing all weekend since I rolled out on the first practice. It feels so awesome to be racing on this side of the world.

“What an amazing day. It’s awesome; we have the home Grand Prix coming up shortly. Wedding coming up in a couple of weeks. I’m over the moon; can’t thank everyone enough.”

Miller beat Brad Binder to the line by 3.4 seconds with third-place Jorge Martin finishing about one second behind.

But the center of the storm was located just inside the top 10 as both Quartararo and Bagnaia started deep in the field.

Quartararo was on the outside of row three in ninth with Bagnaia one row behind in 12th. Neither rider moved up significantly, but the championship continued to be of primary importance as Bagnaia put in a patented late-race charge to settle onto Quartararo’s back tire, which would have allowed the championship leader to gain only a single point.

On the final lap, Bagnaia charged just a little too hard and crashed under heavy braking, throwing away the seven points he would have earned for a ninth-place finish.

The day was even more dramatic for the rider who entered the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix third in the standings. On the sighting lap, Aleix Espargaro had an alarm sound, so he peeled off into the pits, dropped his primary bike and jumped aboard the backup. Starting from pit lane, he trailed the field and was never able to climb into the points. An undisclosed electronic problem was the culprit.

For Quartararo, gaining eight points on the competition was more than a moral victory. This was a track on which he expected to run moderately, and he did, but the problems for his rivals gives him renewed focus with four rounds remaining.

Next week, the series heads to Thailand and then Miller’s home track of Phillip Island in Australia. They will close out the Pacific Rim portion of the schedule before heading to Spain for the finale in early November.

It would appear team orders are not in play among the Ducati riders. Last week’s winner Enea Bastianini made an aggressive early move on Bagnaia for position before the championship contender wrestled the spot back.

In his second race back following arm surgery, Marc Marquez won the pole. His last pole was more than 1,000 days ago on this same track in 2019, the last time the series competed at Motegi. Marquez slipped to fifth in the middle stages of the race, before regaining a position to finish just off the podium.

In Moto2 competition, Ai Ogura beat Augusto Fernandez to close the gap in that championship to two points. Fernandez holds the scant lead. Alonso Lopez rounded out the podium.

Both American riders, Cameron Beaubier and Joe Roberts finished just outside the top 10 in 11th and 12th respectively.