We said stage 11 would be a pivotal day of racing at the Dakar and, oh boy, it sure was! After losing a little time yesterday, the pressure was well and truly on Sam today, who in no uncertain terms needed to deliver a flawless ride to keep his chances of a second Dakar win alive. And that’s exactly what he did. Putting together a standout performance, Sam navigated perfectly, attacked from the start, and finished second on the stage, just four seconds behind the eventual winner. Now, with just one day of racing to go, the GASGAS Factory Racing ace sits at the top of the leaderboard with a near seven-minute advantage over his nearest rival.
Sam Sunderland: “Today was a really tough one. We were expecting it to be difficult and even four kilometers in there were lines everywhere in the sand. From there on I had to focus on myself and stay on top of my roadbook, it wasn’t really an option to follow the lines ahead. Through the dunes I was able to make up some time, which was good and I just missed out on another stage win. Up until now the race has gone really well, the whole team behind me has been fantastic but the race isn’t over until it’s over. All I can do is hope for a clean run through tomorrow’s stage and then we’ll see where we end up.”
In rally racing, starting any stage a handful of riders behind the first rider generally proves to be an advantage, but with the navigation incredibly tricky on today’s penultimate stage of the rally, it was every man for himself out there in the desert. Opting to focus solely on his roadbook throughout the challenging 345-kilometer special, Sam was in superb form, narrowly missing out on the stage win but more importantly, now leads the rally heading into the final, decisive day of racing. It’s go time!
Results (provisional): Dakar Rally 2022, stage 11
1. Kevin Benavides (KTM) 3:30:56
2. Sam Sunderland (GASGAS) 3:31:00
3. Joaquim Rodrigues (Hero) 3:33:22
Overall Provisional Classification (after stage 11)
1. Sam Sunderland (GASGAS) 37:04:05
2. Pablo Quintanilla (Honda) 37:10:57
3. Matthias Walkner (KTM) 37:11:20