Brits go for glory

O Three Brits set off in the world’s tough­est bike race

Motorcycle News (UK) - - CONTENTS - By Michael Guy MCN SPORTS EDI­TOR

Sam Sun­der­land leads the charge in tough desert test

Over 100,000 spec­ta­tors flooded the streets of Lima in Peru to watch the start of this year’s Dakar Rally. In what is the 41st run­ning of the pres­ti­gious race 137 bikes, in­clud­ing three Bri­tish rid­ers started the ar­du­ous event.

As MCN went to press on Mon­day the open­ing stage of the 10-stage event was un­der­way, a rel­a­tively short, 52-mile spe­cial stage with a 153-mile li­ai­son stage that saw the com­peti­tors leave the cap­i­tal city of Lima and head south along the coast to Pisco.

UK hopes of glory rest with 2017 win­ner and factory Red Bull KTM rider Sam Sun­der­land. The 29-year-old Brit is a match for any Rally rider in the world and this year’s event should play to his strengths as the race is be­ing held ex­clu­sively in Peru with the route 70% sand. Sun­der­land spent years liv­ing and rid­ing in Dubai and as a re­sult be­came one of the best sand rid­ers on the planet.

But while he’s well placed, he also faces in­tense com­pe­ti­tion from a host of ri­vals. In his own KTM team he has two fel­low Dakar win­ners; Toby Price and Matthias Walkner, but it’s the level of com­pe­ti­tion from other man­u­fac­tur­ers that is un­prece­dented this year. Honda field an of­fi­cial HRC squad with an im­pres­sive line-up of five rid­ers; hree of whom are among the favourites to win; Kevin Be­na­vides, Joan Barreda and Paulo Gon­calves.

Yamaha’s ef­fort has be­come more se­ri­ous re­cently, too. Num­ber one rider Adrien Van Bev­eren has com­peted in three Dakars, com­ing sixth at his first at­tempt, fourth in 2017 and he led the 2018 race be­fore a heavy crash on Stage 10. As a re­sult he’s widely touted as a po­ten­tial vic­tor in 2019.

With close to 10 men fast enough to se­cure vic­tory it will come down to which can stay in­jury free and make the least mis­takes over what prom­ises to be a bru­tal 10 days of rac­ing.

Brits ready

While Sam Sun­der­land is go­ing all out for glory there are also two other Brits, Max Hunt and Richard Main, who have also em­barked on their own per­sonal Dakar chal­lenge.

For Hunt, a two-time Dakar fin­isher, this year’s race will be his tough­est yet as he’s rac­ing in the Malle Moto class, which means mean­ing he has no team to help him work on his bike af­ter each stage. Re­garded as the hard­est pos­si­ble way to race the Dakar, the Malle Moto class is a huge chal­lenge for Hunt who will have to rely on his good speed and rid­ing tal­ent to com­plete a mis­take-free race.

Main, mean­while, may be a Dakar rookie but at 53 is an in­cred­i­bly ex­pe­ri­enced racer and a for­mer top-level mo­tocrosser.

Top Brit Sun­der­land is aim­ing to re­peat his 2017 vic­tory Rookie Richard Main, 53, just hopes to fin­ish Max Hunt is rac­ing in the su­per-tough Malle Moto class

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