It was looking so good! It started well, was going well, but frustratingly things didn’t end the way Daniel Sanders hoped they would at the 2021 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. Showing impressive pace on the fifth and final stage, Daniel ran out of fuel on the 217km special and, like the true warrior he is, was forced to push his RC 450F to the finish for a 14th place result. Taking positives from the event, Sanders has demonstrated incredible speed and skill throughout the rally, and will look to carry that form onto the Dakar in January.
Daniel Sanders: “The last day has obviously been a huge disappointment for me and the team, but that’s racing – I guess you have to take the smooth with the rough. I started really well and was making good time through the dunes at the beginning of the stage. I realized about halfway through that with no refueling in the stage, and the type of terrain we were racing through, fuel was going to be a problem. So I tried to ease my pace as much as I could. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough, and I eventually ran out. Obviously, it’s not the best way to end the rally, especially after such a strong year but I’m pleased with how I’ve ridden, not just in Abu Dhabi, but over the whole season. My pace here has been really strong, I won a stage and did a good job of leading out after that. Again, it’s not the way I wanted to end the season, but as it’s just my first full year in the championship, I’m definitely pleased with how I’ve progressed and raised my level. Although the result here has knocked me back a little, I’ll just take the positives and look ahead to the Dakar in January. I’ve really gelled with the bike – my navigation is always improving, and my pace is definitely there. We’ve got less than two months till Dakar, and I’m going to be ready!”
Coming into the final day of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, Daniel Sanders was lying second in the standings, and enjoyed an advantageous start position to make up time on the leader. Pushing hard, our Aussie star immediately put himself in control of the stage, topping each of the split times on his way through the special.
With all riders having to manage their fuel due to the special not including a refueling zone, Sanders’ pace was such that he ran out first while fighting for the stage, and rally win. It’s an unfortunate way to finish the event, but Daniel can look back over his FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship season and take many positives, including several stage wins, three at the Silk Way Rally, plus others in Morocco and Abu Dhabi.
Despite the set-back at the final event, Sanders finished a respectable third overall in the final championship standings, not bad for his first full year! And now, with his focus switching to the Dakar Rally next January, Chucky will regroup and come back fighting!
Results (provisional): Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge 2021, stage 5
1. Adrien Van Beveren (Yamaha) 2:32:06
2. Matthias Walkner (KTM) 2:33:20
3. Ross Branch (Yamaha) 2:36:07
14. Daniel Sanders (GASGAS) 6:00:00
Overall Provisional Classification (after stage 5)
1. Matthias Walkner (KTM) 17:38:40
2. Adrien Van Beveren (Yamaha) 17:43:12
3. Joaquim Rodrigues (Hero) 18:14:06
12. Daniel Sanders (GASGAS) 26:09:10