Dakar Rally, Stage 8: Ricky Brabec finishes third; Austin Jones takes overall lead in SSV


Ricky Brabec broke the hex on starting up front in the motorbike division, finishing third Monday in Stage 8 of the Dakar Rally and climbing to sixth overall with four stages remaining.

The defending bike champion had won a marathon Stage 7, which put the first American to win Dakar first on the starting line in Stage 8 (another long segment of more than 700 kilometers). Because navigation has hampered those starting up front on fresh terrain, many riders have strategized by striving for consistency over stage victories.

But Brabec soldiered through Monday, becoming the first rider this year to finish on the podium after starting first in a stage. The Hesperia, California, native had been burned starting first before, finishing 24th in Stage 1 after winning the Prologue.

“Today opening was really fun,” Brabec said. “We didn’t really make any big mistakes. I wish we would have had this speed and this focus from Day 1, but it took a little bit to get used to the road book.

“There’s four days of racing left. Let’s see what happens the rest of the week. I know we’re a little bit down on time, but possibly tomorrow we can make up a little more starting in the back.”

HOW TO WATCH ON NBCSN: Information, schedules for the Dakar Rally

Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo, Brabec’s Monster Energy Honda teammate who goes by Nacho Cornejo, maintained the overall lead by winning his first stage this year.

“Tomorrow I have to open the way, so I’ll try to do it as clean as I can and try not to lose too much time,” Cornejo said.

Cornejo leads two-time Dakar winner Toby Price, who finished second Monday, by 1 minute 5 seconds. Sam Sunderland, Price’s Red Bull KTM teammate, is third overall, nearly 6 minutes behind.

Brabec, who gained two spots in the overall rankings after Stage 8, is 17 minutes, 42 seconds off the lead.

Skyler Howes, the American privateer who led the overall through three stages, finished ninth in Stage 8 and remained seventh overall, 19 minutes, 20 seconds out of first.

“It was OK,” Howes said. “I started third on the day, so I thought for sure the navigation would be difficult, so I toned it down a little bit. I had my navigation going perfect, but it turns out I was just going way too slow to get the navigation right because the guys at the front were just hauling, and they nailed it. Still had a lot of fun.”

Former leader Xavier de Soultrait withdrew from the race after crashing midway through Stage 8. Race officials said the rider was airlifted to a hospital for X-rays but didn’t lose consciousness in the wreck.

In other divisions Monday:

Cars: Nasser Al-Attiyah captured his fourth stage victory, narrowly defeating defending champion Carlos Sainz by 52 seconds.

Stephane Peterhansel finished 3 minutes, 3 seconds behind in third, maintaining a lead of 5 minutes, 50 seconds over Al-Attiyah in the overall rankings.

“In the last 50 kilometers, I did one or two mistakes to lose 1 or 2 minutes, but at the end, we’re still in the battle,” Peterhansel said. “For the moment, it’s just a small (lead), but I hope it’s good to the end.”

Said Al-Attiyah, who overcame a flat tire for the second consecutive stage: “We kept the car in one piece which is good because, in some places, we were pushing a lot. We get three minutes back on Stephane today, and we will keep going day by day. We’ll do our best for a good fight.”

Side by side UTVs (SSV)/lightweight/light prototypes: American Austin Jones took the overall lead in the top lightweight classes with a fifth-place finish. The Monster Energy Can-Am driver leads in side by sides (SSV) by 20 minutes, 51 seconds over Francisco Lopez Contardo, who won his second consecutive stage and fourth overall.

“It was a difficult day,” Jones said. “It was a long day. I know it wasn’t as many kilometers as other days, but for some reason today felt really long. Maybe it was because it was a marathon day last night, and no one could sleep because it was so cold in there! But yeah, it was a good day. It was a nice stage.”

PUSHING FOR VICTORY: Austin Jones on his 2021 Dakar experience

It was a disastrous outing for Aron Domzala, who fell from first to third overall and more than 31 minutes off the lead. Domzala had led by more than 9 minutes over Jones entering Stage 8 but finished 13th, 36 minutes out of the lead.

Jones also leads Seth Quintero by 10 minutes, 31 seconds in the lightweight class. Quintero extended his lead in the light prototype division to more than 4 hours as the American won his fifth stage.

Quads:  Alexandre Giroud scored his third stage victory, cutting a minute, 12 seconds off the margin for overall lead Manuel Andujar (who has an edge of 19 minutes, 43 seconds).

Trucks: Anton Shibalov scored his first stage victory in another 1-2-3 sweep for the Kamaz-Master team. Shibalov is second overall behind teammate Dmitry Sotnikov by more than 43 minutes.

STAGE 1 RESULTSCarlos Sainz, Toby Price open with victories

STAGE 2Ricky Brabec jumps to second; Andrew Short withdraws

STAGE 3American privateer Skyler Howes takes lead

STAGE 4Four Stages, four bike winners; Al-Attiyah wins three consecutive in cars

STAGE 5: Kevin Benavides new leader in bikes

STAGE 6: Toby Price retakes the lead; Peterhansel distances the competition

STAGE 7: Ricky Brabec captures first victory; Skyler Howes third


Cars: Nasser Al-Attiyah 4 (Stages 2, 3, 4, 8); Carlos Sainz 2 (Stage 1, 6); Giniel de Villiers (Stage 5); Yazeed Al Rajhi (Stage 7)

Bikes: Joan Barreda 3 (Stage 2, 4, 6); Toby Price 2 (Stages 1, 3); Kevin Benavides (Stage 5); Ricky Brabec (Stage 7); Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo (Stage 8)

Side-by-sides: Francisco Lopez Contardo 4 (Stage 3, 5, 7, 8); Austin Jones (Stage 1); Saleh Alsaif (Stage 2); Aron Domzala (Stage 4); Khalifa Al Attiyah (Stage 6)

Lightweight prototypes: Seth Quintero 5 (Stage 2, 3, 5, 6, 8); Cristina Gutierrez Herrero 2 (Stage 1, 7); Kris Meeke (Stage 4)

Quads: Alexandre Giroud 3 (Stage 1, 6, 8); Nicolas Cavigliasso 2 (Stage 3, 5); Manuel Andujar 2 (Stage 4, 7); Pablo Copetti (Stage 2)

Trucks: Dmitry Sotnikov 4 (Stage 1, 2, 4, 7); Siarhei Viazovich (Stage 3); Andrey Karginov (Stage 5); Airat Mardeev (Stage 6); Anton Shibalov (Stage 8)

Watch highlights from Stage 8 of the Dakar Rally on NBCSN at 6:30 p.m. ET today.

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


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.