Dakar Stage 11 Highlights: Sainz, Brabec on-track to win with 1 stage remaining

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With the penultimate stage of the 2020 Dakar Rally now complete, Carlos Sainz is now poised to collect his third career victory in the prestigious event.

Meanwhile, Americans Ricky Brabec and Casey Currie are on-track to overall victories in the motorbike and side-by-side classes, respectively.

Here are some of Thursday’s highlights:

In the cars class, Stephane Peterhansel set the pace, narrowly defeating Nasser Al-Attiyah by 0:10 to win his fourth stage win of the 2020 edition of the rally.

Carlos Sainz finished 8:03 behind, placing him third overall. Sainz now holds a ten-minute lead heading into the Friday’s final stage. Should he maintain his lead through the finish, he will win the rally for the third time in his career.

Dakar rookie Fernando Alonso completed the stage eighth-fastest, 16:25 behind Sainz. Alonso is now ranked 13th in the overall class standings.

Overall: Carlos Sainz holds an advantage of 10:17 over Nasser Al-Attiyah.

In bikes, Pablo Quintanilla sliced Ricky Brabec’s overall lead in half with his second stage win, narrowly defeating Matthias Walkner by 0:09. Luciano Benavides finished third, 2:48 back.

Overall: Ricky Brabec holds an advantage of 13:56 over Pablo Quintanilla.

In side by sides, defending class champion Francisco Lopez Contardo won his second stage of the 2020 event, defeating Aron Domzala by 10:53. Conrad Rautenbach finished third, 12:36 behind.

American Casey Currie is one stage away from winning his first Dakar, holding a 45-minute advantage over Sergei Kariakin despite not winning a single stage.

Overall: Casey Currie holds an advantage of 45:33 over Sergei Kariakin.

In quads, 2015 class champion Rafal Sonik picked up his first stage win of the 2020 running, outpacing overall leader Ignacio Casale by 3:16. Stage 3 winner Giovanni Enrico came home 4:19 behind to finish third.

Overall: Ignacio Casale holds an advantage of 21:16 over Simon Viste.

In trucks, Andrey Karginov is on track to win the rally for the second time in his career, defeating Kamaz teammate Dmitry Sotnikov by 1:27 to win his sixth stage of the 2020 edition.

Karginov now leads Anton Shibalov by nearly 40 minutes in the overall standings with one stage remaining.

Shibalov finished third overall in Thursday’s stage, 3:25 behind.

Overall: Andrey Karginov holds an advantage of 39:33 over Anton Shibalov.

Stage Wins:

Cars: [4] Carlos Sainz (Stage 3, 5, 7 and 10), [4] Stephane Peterhansel (Stage 4, 6,9 and 11), [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), [2] Pablo Quintanilla (Stage 9 and 11), [1] Ross Branch (Stage 2), [1] Jose Ingacio Cornejo (Stage 4), [1] Kevin Benavides (Stage 7) and [1] Joan Barreda Bort (Stage 10)

Side-by-sides: [2] Gerard Farres Guell (Stage 3 and 6), [2] Blade Hildebrand (Stage 7 and 9), [2] Mitch Guthrie (Stage 4 and 10), [2] Francisco Lopez Contardo (Stage 2 and 11), [1]  Aron Domzala (Stage 1), [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), [1] Romain Dutu (Stage 5), [1] Kamil Wisinewski (Stage 10) and [1] Rafal Sonik (Stage 11)

Trucks: [6] Andrey Karginov (Stage 3, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 11), [3] Anton Shibalov (Stage 1, 4 and 10), [1] Siarhei Viazovich (Stage 2) and [1] Dmitry Sotnikov (Stage 5)

Highlights of Stage 11 will air on NBCSN tonight at 6:30 p.m. ET.  The 12th and final stage takes place on Friday.

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Meyer Shank Racing wins second consecutive Rolex 24 at Daytona to begin GTP era

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The Grand Touring Prototype era began just as the previous one ended as Meyer Shank Racing’s Acura captured its second consecutive Rolex 24 at Daytona with star Tom Blomqvist emphatically starting and finishing the race.

The No. 60 ARX-06 won the 24-hour endurance classic at Daytona International Speedway by 4.190 seconds over Filipe Albuquerque of Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Autosport, giving Acura a sweep of the top two spots.

The Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac V-LMDh cars took the next two spots with Renger van der Zande (the No. 01) and Earl Bamber (No. 02) as four of the nine new GTP cars finished on the lead lap within 12 seconds of each other and four more finished the race – quashing the prerace hand-wringing of mass failures for the highly technical cars in the debut of the hybrid prototype premier category.

“Amazed is the right word,” Honda Performance Development president David Salters said when asked about reliability. “These are sophisticated cars. It’s not easy. It’s a testament to each group that they did a really good job. It was a fight all the way through the race. I didn’t expect that at all.”

There were major problems for the manufacturer newcomers Porsche Penske Motorsport and BMW M Team RLL, whose two pairs of cars all finished at least a dozen laps down or more because of major mechanical problems in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener.

But there were no such failures for Acura despite the manufacturer skipping any endurance testing with the new LMDh car. Salters said his

It’s the third Rolex 24 at Daytona victory for co-owner Mike Shank, who won his first in 2012.

Just as he capped the 2022 season by winning the Petit Le Mans season finale in the No. 60 Acura to clinch the final championship of the DPi division for MSR, Blomqvist was behind the wheel again for his third overall victory in IMSA.

“That was crazy,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee. “I knew we had a fantastic car. I’ve been working hard. Unbelievable. Massive, well done, everyone being part of this project and worked together on this project. What a car we’ve built.

“I was just a bit nervous. The 10 was definitely second fastest car, but we held them off.”

It was the second consecutive Rolex 24 victory for MSR’s trio of Blomqvist, Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves, who were joined this year by Colin Braun (winning his first Rolex 24 overall).

Castroneves joined select company in winning the Rolex 24 in three consecutive years (his first win was with Wayne Taylor Racing in 2021 — also in an Acura, which now has three consecutive Rolex 24s). Peter Gregg won the Rolex 24 in 1973, ’75 and ’76 (the 1974 race wasn’t held because of the oil crisis).

Castroneves and Pagenaud are entering their second consecutive year as teammates for Meyer Shank Racing’s Dallara-Hondas in the NTT IndyCar Series.

“Can you believe that?” Castroneves told Lee. “Big props to everyone. Everyone did an amazing job. Everybody worked so hard together. We got it! Another one. I can’t believe it. This is absolutely a dream come true.”

The four-time Indy 500 winner led the team in his signature fence-climbing celebration afterward — just as he had when he finished MSR’s victory in last year’s Rolex 24 and when he won the 2021 Indy 500 for the team.

“It’s always fun to climb the fence with Helio,” said Pagenaud, who drove the second-to-last stint before Blomqvist closed it out: “The competition as amazing. It was tough out there. So much fun. Hope you had as much fun as we had. I’m going to savor this one.”

Winners in other classes were the No. 55 ORECA 07 of Proton Competition (which triumphed on a last-lap pass by James Allen on Ben Hanley), WeatherTech Racing’s No. 79 Mercedes in GTD Pro, Heart of Racing’s No. 27 Aston Martin in GTD and AWA’s No. 17 in LMP3.