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Dakar Stage 9 Highlights: Sainz’s lead down to 24 seconds over Al-Attiyah

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While stage 9 of the Dakar Rally saw the overall leaders in the motorbike, SxS, quad and truck classes continue to build on or maintain healthy advantages, Carlos Sainz’s lead in the cars category has nearly been erased.

Here are some of Tuesday’s highlights:

In the cars class, Stephane Peterhansel collected his third stage victory, as Nasser Al-Attiyah closed in on overall leader Carlos Sainz.

Al-Attiyah finished 0:15 behind Peterhansel, narrowing his overall deficit to a mire 0:24 behind Sainz.

Both Peterhansel and Al-Attiyah remained up front for the majority of the stage, with the duo finishing first and second at nearly every waypoint. A combination of a navigation error and lost tread on a tire caused Sainz to finish fifth, 6:31 behind Peterhansel.

Dakar rookie Fernando Alonso had another strong outing, finishing 13:03 behind in ninth place. The two-time Formula One champion is now ranked 10th overall.

Overall: Carlos Sainz holds an advantage of 0:24 over Nasser Al-Attiyah.

In bikes, Pablo Quintanilla took his first stage win of the 2020 rally, erasing just under four minutes in his overall deficit to Ricky Brabec.

Toby Price finished second, 1:54 back, while Joan Barreda Bort held on to finish third despite a small crash.

Overall: Ricky Brabec holds an advantage of 20:53 over Pablo Quintanilla.

In side by sides, Casey Currie continued to race towards his maiden Dakar victory, extending his lead in the overall standings to over 23 minutes.

Currie finished Tuesday’s stage in the third position, finishing behind fellow Americans Blade Hildebrand and Mitch Guthrie, both of whom are competing in the ‘Dakar Experience’ category following previous retirements earlier on in the rally.

Overall: Casey Currie holds an advantage of 23:37 over Francisco Lopez Contardo.

In quads, Ignacio Casale narrowly won by 0:03 over Giovanni Enrico. The victory is Casale’s fourth of the rally, and he now leads the overall standings by nearly 45 minutes.

Tomas Kubiena finished in the third position, 6:27 behind, while Casale’s closest title rival Simon Viste finished sixth, 8:14 back.

Overall: Ignacio Casale holds an advantage of 44:57 over Simon Viste.

In trucks, Kamaz driver Andrey Karginov won his fourth consecutive stage, finishing 3:19 ahead of second-place Siarhei Viazovich. Karginov now leads the overall standings by nearly 40 minutes.

Eduard Nikolaev finished third, 9:24 behind.

Overall: Andrey Karginov holds an advantage of 38:35 over Anton Shibalov.

Stage Wins:

Cars: [3] Carlos Sainz (Stage 3, 5, and 7), [3] Stephane Peterhansel (Stage 4, 6 and 9), [1] Vaidotas Zala (Stage 1), [1] Giniel De Villiers (Stage 2) and [1] Mathieu Serradori (Stage 8)

Bikes: [2] Toby Price (Stage 1 and 5), [2] Ricky Brabec (Stage 3 and 6), [1] Ross Branch (Stage 2), [1] Jose Ingacio Cornejo (Stage 4), [1] Kevin Benavides (Stage 7) and [1] Pablo Quintanilla (Stage 9)

Side-by-sides: [2] Gerard Farres Guell (Stage 3 and 6), [2] Blade Hildebrand (Stage 7 and 9), [1] Francisco Lopez Contardo (Stage 2), [1]  Aron Domzala (Stage 1), [1] Mitch Guthrie (Stage 4),  [1] Cyril Despres (Stage 5) and [1] Reinaldo Varela (Stage 8)

Quads: [4] Ignacio Casale (Stage 1, 2, 4 and 9), [2] Simon Viste (Stage 6 and 7), [1] Giovanni Enrico (Stage 3) and [1] Romain Dutu (Stage 5)

Trucks: [5] Andrey Karginov (Stage 3, 6, 7, 8 and 9), [2] Anton Shibalov (Stage 1 and 4), [1] Siarhei Viazovich (Stage 2) and [1] Dmitry Sotnikov (Stage 5)

Highlights of Stage 9 will air on NBCSN tonight at 5:30 p.m. ET.  The rally runs through Friday.

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F1 aggressive on COVID-19 testing, social distancing enforcement

F1 COVID-19 testing
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With big hugs and wide smiles, McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown exuberantly celebrated the first podium finish of Lando Norris’ Formula One career. His exuberance earned a warning from Formula One and FIA officials during the era of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and subsequent F1 testing.

“Obviously I got excited with Lando on the podium and embraced him after the race,” Brown said with a laugh during a news conference Friday. “You get caught up in the emotion and excitement of the event, but it was suggested maybe I don’t do that again if we get a podium anytime soon.”

MASK WARNING: NASCAR tells teams to avoid ‘complacency’

Now in its second race weekend of 2020, F1 has taken an aggressive approach to maintain a paddock free of COVID-19. Before teams hit the track last week for the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix, F1 and FIA officials said more than 4,000 tests were conducted over a week with no positive tests.

In order to enter the track, any F1 personnel (which includes drivers and team members) must have a negative COVID-19 test. Private testing was used ahead of those traveling to Austria. After entering the track, personnel are tested every five days with private medical teams at events along with extra screening.

The results of F1 COVID-19 testing also will be made public every seven days. More than 8,000 tests were conducted through Saturday.

It’s a much different tack from NASCAR and IndyCar, neither of which is conducting COVID-19 testing (and with NASCAR recently distributing that warned teams of “complacency with protocols).

Though Brown, who also oversees Arrow McLaren SP Motorsports in IndyCar, demurred when asked whether the U.S.-based series should be taking a cue, he praised F1 COVID-19 testing for being a best-in-class example.

“I don’t know exactly what every other racing series is doing, so it would be difficult for me to say they’re doing it right or wrong,” Brown said from Austria. “All I can really do is speak to what Formula One is doing, and they’re doing an unbelievable job with 5,000 tests, and people flying in from different parts of the world. The minute that someone — and there’s not been many instances – has taken a mask off, you’re getting a letter or a phone call saying put your mask back on.

“I think all sports should be looking at all sports and seeing who’s doing what and what are our best practices, but I’ve got nothing but great things to say about how the FIA and Formula One and the countries they’re racing in are executing because it feels extremely safe here.”

Brown said it’s unlikely the European-based circuit will do F1 COVID-19 testing at races in the United States, Brazil, Mexico and Canada because the events likely will be scrubbed. Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, was scheduled to play host to F1 on the Oct. 23-25 race weekend but just canceled its MotoGP race.

“We’d very much like to race at all those circuits,” Brown said. “Unfortunately, my opinion is it’s probably unlikely we’ll race at any of those venues this year. That’s obviously due to the COVID situation. … Let’s see what happens, but certainly it seems like the spikes in Texas are pretty severe and Brazil and Mexico and Canada a little less so. But if we miss them this year, we certainly look forward to going back to those venues next year.”