After six downright gnarly days of desert racing, GASGAS Factory Racing’s Sam Sunderland and Daniel Sanders are today enjoying the event’s official rest day. With Sam moving into the provisional lead early on and Daniel Sanders claiming two stage victories to now lie third in the provisional standings, it’s been an incredible week for our all-in rally racers. Now, together with the rest of the team and GASGAS support crew, everyone is enjoying a day away from racing before gearing up for stage seven on Sunday.
Sam Sunderland’s GASGAS Factory Racing debut couldn’t be going any better as he holds the event lead after week one – some 1,973 kilometers of racing across the desert! Moving to the top of the leaderboard following a strong runner-up finish on stage two, the Brit has managed the race perfectly to hold onto the provisional lead for five consecutive days. Looking ahead to the second week of racing, Sam is undoubtedly aiming to maintain his speed, form, and consistency in the hope of securing his second Dakar Rally victory, the very first for GASGAS.
It’s also been a fantastic, and memorable, week at the Dakar for Daniel Sanders. Not only has he impressed with two stage victories, but he’s given his all each and every day to stay up front in the overall classification. He even took a navigation tower screen to the chin after sending it a little too far off the top of a sand dune! Keeping his cool despite a couple of minor setbacks, the hard charging Aussie now lies third overall, just over five minutes behind GASGAS Factory Racing teammate Sam Sunderland with six stages remaining.
Week two will begin with a serious challenge for our rally racers. After they dominated the final special of week one, Daniel will lead out on stage seven with Sam right behind him. With stage seven beginning with a 100-kilometer stretch of rolling sand dunes, the duo will need to navigate with pinpoint accuracy in order to secure a strong result and retain their places at the top of the leaderboard.
Sam Sunderland: “I’m happy to have reached the rest day safely and in the lead. It’s been a great first week besides my crash on stage four. My neck and shoulder were a little sore after that one but it’s been getting better day by day and it’s not effecting my riding too much. I’m looking forward to the second week of racing. Everything to this point with my bike and navigation has been where it needs to be so the goal is for this to continue next week and then we should be somewhere handy next Friday.”
Daniel Sanders: “It’s been a really up and down first week with a few mistakes along the way but there have been plenty of positives to come out of it. My navigation is much better this year, my bike set-up is spot on and my riding, and overall speed, has definitely improved compared to last year. I’m actually a little surprised with my speed and I’m happy with all the improvements that I’ve made so yeah, it’s been a solid first week. The ultimate goal is to win this thing but getting on the podium would be cool too so we’ll see how it goes next week.”
Norbert Stadlbauer – Rally Team Manager: “It’s been a great week for both Sam and Daniel and today, along with the rest of the team, we’re enjoying the event’s rest day ahead of week two. The performance that both riders have put in this week has been simply amazing. Sam has the experience and is managing the race very well at the moment, and Daniel has two stage wins, which is a great achievement. Going into week two, as a team we need to stay ready, keep doing the right things, and carry the momentum that has built this week into next week. We have great bikes, our riders are positioned very well in the standings, and so we are set to have another great week of racing.”
Overall Provisional Classification (after stage 6)
1. Sam Sunderland (GASGAS) 19:55:59
2. Matthias Walkner (KTM) 19:58:38
3. Daniel Sanders (GASGAS) 20:01:34