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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F1 aggressive on COVID-19 testing, social distancing enforcement

F1 COVID-19 testing
Mario Renzi - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images
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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.”