Brits bat­tle to the top in race for Dakar glory

Brit bat­tles to the front as he bids to make his­tory

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week In Mcn - By Si­mon Pat­ter­son MCN SPORTS WRITER

Brit Sam Sun­der­land goes into the sec­ond week of the 2017 Dakar Rally calm, cool and in con­trol – de­spite a slight wob­ble on Mon­day. He led the race go­ing into the week­end af­ter some bril­liant nav­i­gat­ing. The Red Bull KTM rider has made the most of a can­celled stage and a rest day to re­group for a ma­jor push as he aims not only to win but to fin­ish for the first time.

Of­ten a vic­tim of his own over­ag­gres­sive rid­ing in re­cent years with crashes tak­ing him out of con­tention (or even pre­vent­ing him from start­ing, as was the case in 2016), Sun­der­land seems to have brought a new ap­proach this year. He has ad­justed well to tak­ing on the man­tle of team leader af­ter de­fend­ing cham­pion Toby Price fell and broke his leg early in the event.

“It’s been hard with a lot of crazy things to deal with – tem­per­a­tures of 45 de­grees to 5 de­grees in Bo­livia and al­ti­tude of 4500 me­tres. The nav­i­ga­tion has been heavy and there’s been very phys­i­cal rid­ing as well. It’s good to have the lead at half­way but I know it doesn’t mean much be­cause we still have a long way to go. I need to stay fo­cused un­til the end.”

How­ever, while the first week of the race was pun­ish­ing on both rid­ers and ma­chin­ery thanks to cli­mate and ter­rain, Sun­der­land isn’t ex­pect­ing con­di­tions to ease up too much in the sec­ond half of the race. Or­gan­is­ers prom­ise a race de­signed to keep the racing close un­til the very fi­nal stage in Buenos Aires.

“For this week I am ex­pect­ing rougher 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. I think the or­gan­is­ers have planned in some re­ally tough nav­i­ga­tion, with long stages of rid­ing, and lots of riverbeds, dunes and camel grass. I’ll just be try­ing to fo­cus each day be­cause this year I re­ally want to see the fin­ish line.”

Those nav­i­ga­tion is­sues came into play for Sun­der­land on the first day of the sec­ond half of the race, when, run­ning as the first bike on the road, he man­aged to get lost on Mon­day’s mod­i­fied stage seven. How­ever, los­ing only three min­utes to stage-win­ner Paulo Gon­calves, dif­fi­cul­ties for his op­po­si­tion as well means that not only was the Brit able to limit the dam­age done, he was able to ac­tu­ally ex­tend his lead over Pablo Quin­tanilla in the over­all stand­ings to nearly 20 min­utes.

Sun­der­land has had to over­come vast con­trasts in race weather con­di­tions

Sun­der­land shows the skills that helped to put him in pole po­si­tion Sam Sun­der­land looks set to be in the fi­nal Dakar Rally shake-up once the dust has set­tled

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.