Benavides and Brabec lead a historic Monster Energy Honda 1-2.
KTM Factory Racing newcomer Daniel Sanders has sealed a remarkable fourth overall in his Dakar Rally debut, the 2021 edition won by Honda’s Kevin Benavides.
The 26-year-old Sanders largely impressed over the 12 stages in Saudia Arabia despite carrying little rally experience going into the journey.
With countryman Toby Price ruled out with a broken collarbone, Australia’s attention turned to Sanders, where he put forward a consistent effort throughout week to in gaining crucial experience and overcoming early troubles to finish just outside of the podium.
“All in all it’s been a pretty perfect first Dakar for me,” Sanders said. “It started off with a good prologue and then day by day I learned a little more and gained as much experience as possible. I’m really pleased to come away with fourth overall and as first rookie, so that’s cool.
“I’ve only really spent four months on the KTM rally bike, learning as much as I can for this, so I can’t thank Jordi [Viladoms] and the whole team enough for all the hard work they have done and the faith they put in me. It’s pretty much what I expected as I came into the race ready for it to be really tough.
“The first few days weren’t so bad. Yeah, the navigation was tricky, but it wasn’t till about day five or six that we had some hugely physical stages in the dunes. That, and after a couple of crashes, my body really started to hurt. It’s all been worth it though.
“I’m over the moon with my result and glad I’ve been able to gather all the information together and come away with a strong finish. It’s been the toughest race I’ve ever done, but I’m already looking forward to the next one!”
Sanders was inside the top 10 rankings in all but two of the stages, his best result being a runner-up on stage four. He concluded the event with fifth in today’s 12th and final stage. Winning the overall was Benavides, with last year’s winner Ricky Brabec (Monster Energy Honda) second and Sam Sunderland (Red Bull KTM) third.
It was also a well-deserved finish for the other two Australian riders in the field, Michael Burgess (BAS Dakar KTM Racing Team) finished in a fine 27th overall, with Andrew Houlihan (Nomadas Adventure KTM) gradually making ground with 50th position.
View all of the official results, live timing and detailed updates throughout the 2021 rally at the official Dakar website.