Brits go for glory
O Three Brits set off in the world’s toughest bike race
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.
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