News 9 Jan 2017

KTM's Sunderland leads Dakar Rally into second half

Smith and Hart maintain Australian charge following cancelled sixth stage.

Source: Supplied.

Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Sam Sunderland currently holds a 12-minute advantage over Chilean Pablo Quintanilla (Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing) in the 2017 Dakar Rally as the event hosts a rest day prior to entering the next six stages.

Sunderland took control of the category after securing victory on the shortened fifth stage, making him the fifth different winner in as many days during this year’s edition of the Dakar Rally.

The British rider, who hasn’t stepped outside of the top four in the first half of the event, revealed that he’s happy to maintain the lead into the next leg of the rally, although he’s remaining level-headed with six demanding days still to be run.

“It’s been a hard time with a lot of crazy things – temperatures of 45 degrees to five degrees here in Bolivia and altitude of 4,500 metres,” Sunderland explained. “The navigation has been heavy and very physical riding as well. It’s good to arrive here in the lead but at the same time I know it doesn’t mean much because we still have a long way to go. I need to stay focused until the end.

“For next week I am expecting a lot more rough times to come. We’re heading back into Argentina but first we have the marathon stage, which is always interesting. We’ll be on our own in the desert, so that will be a bit rough.”

Frenchman Adrien Van Beveren (Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team) sits just over four minutes behind Quintanilla in third, while Gerard Farres Guell (KTM) and Matthias Walkner (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) round out the top five.

Todd Smith (KTM) leads the Australian charge in 16th position, while countryman Matthew Hart (Husqvarna) sits in 63rd place, in what is his first Dakar attempt.

Toby Price’s (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) Dakar title defence came to a premature end while leading Stage Four, where he crashed out of the event with a broken femur. Australia’s Rodney Faggotter (Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team) would also exit the event during the same stage with a technical issue.

Racing will resume today with riders taking on a marathon Stage Seven consisting of 622 kilometres of desert navigation to be completed en route to Argentina, where they’ll be denied assistance from team personnel until the conclusion of Stage Eight.