Dakar Stage 1 Highlights: Zala takes surprise win as Alonso finishes 11th

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The 42nd edition of the Dakar Rally got underway Sunday with a total of 351 vehicles ready to contest a new route that will be held entirely within Saudi Arabia. 

In the cars class, defending race champion Nasser Al-Attiyah led the majority of the first stage, but suffered three tire punctures, leading to an upset victory by Mini driver Vaidotas Zala. Fellow Mini driver Stephane Peterhansel finished second, 2 minutes and 14 seconds behind.

Carlos Sainz made it a Mini 1-2-3 by finishing 2 minutes, 50 seconds behind Zala and Peterhansel, while Al-Attiyah had to settle for a fourth-place finish, 5 minutes, 33 seconds behind. 

Two-time Formula One World Champion Fernando Alonso finished 11th overall in his Dakar debut, 15 minutes and 27 seconds off the pace.

In bikes, defending champion Toby Price scored the stage win after taking first place from Ricky Brabec roughly halfway through the stage.

Brabec maintained the lead for approximately the first 100 kilometers before Price gained the lead. Price eventually won with a 2 minute, 5 second lead. 

Price’s teammate Matthias Walkner finished the stage in the third position, 2 minutes and 40 seconds behind.  

In side by sides, Aron Domzala won, beating American Casey Currie by 1 minute and 51 seconds. Jose Antonio Hinojo Lopez finished third, 5 minutes and 49 seconds back. 

In quads, Ignacio Casale won the first stage by a healthy margin of 5 minutes, 36 seconds, while Rafal Sonik finished second. Tomas Kubiena finished third, 6 minutes and 55 seconds behind.

In trucks, Anton Shibalov passed Kamaz teammate Andrey Karginov to take the opening stage victory by 1 minute, 33 seconds. 

Karginov had led through every waypoint before experiencing a setback within the final 100 kilometers, which caused him to finish seventh overall. 

Siarhei Viazovich finished second, while Janus Van Kasteren finished third, 3 minutes and 9 seconds behind. 

Highlights of Stage One will air on NBCSN on Monday, January 6 at 5:00 p.m. ET, with highlights of Stage Two airing immediately after at 5:30 p.m. ET. 

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Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III