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ADV NewsSam Sunderland Wins The Grueling Dakar Rally For A Second Time

Sam Sunderland Wins The Grueling Dakar Rally For A Second Time

Daily stage updates and video recaps of the Dakar Rally 2022.

Published on 01.14.2022


January 14, 2022: Final Stage

He did it. At 32 years old, Sam Sunderland claimed his second Dakar title five years after his first triumph in 2017. Leading the race from stage two through the end of stage six, Sam delivered the goods on multiple occasions which earned him the title after finishing today’s stage in 8th place. It is a first for GasGas, which recruited him at the eleventh hour last December. It comes as a relief for the Austrians, the constructor behind the red brand, who took the crown back from Honda after two years.
“The last ten minutes, I was not sure whether I’d won, now they’ve told me and, wow, dream come true. Even to listen to you say it brings a little bit of emotion there. I had a pretty rough season, but when you win the Dakar, it’s all worth it. ” — Sam Sunderland

Honda was not left out of the podium though. Pablo Quintanilla wrapped up the 45th edition of the Dakar Rally today in a well-deserved second place. Quintanilla, who posted the fastest time in the stage, attempted to close the gap over the 150 kms of timed special involving some tricky, fast-paced navigation ultimately finishing 3’27” short of clinching the outright Dakar 2022 title. The time difference between Sam Sunderland and Pablo Quintanilla was the slimmest margin at the top of the leaderboard since 1994, when Orioli finished 1′13″ ahead of Arcarons.

Pablo Quintanilla joined the team from Husqvarna as a replacement for Benavides, who had jumped ship to KTM.

Pablo Quintanilla: “I’m over the moon with this result. It was a really, really tough race. I did my best. This is a good result for me as part of a different team. We fought hard from day one. It was physically and mentally exhausting. But I’m really pleased with my performance in the race. I want to thank my team for their incredible work over two weeks. It was hard for everyone, with plenty of stress trying to implement a strategy. In the end, I’m thrilled. I also want to thank all my supporters, especially the Chileans who write to me all the time. I think this was my most stressful Dakar yet. The second week was all about strategy, and it’s difficult to implement the right one. But that’s racing for you, what really matters is giving it your all. You win some, you lose some.”


Lying third going in the final day of racing, Matthias Walkner put in a solid performance on today’s stage to finish seventh fastest and secure his overall third-place finish. This is the Austrian’s fourth Dakar podium, as he adds the hard-fought result to his 2021 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship title, in what has been an incredible 12 months of racing for the experienced 35-year-old.

2018 Dakar champ Matthias Walkner finished on the podium of the Dakar for the fourth time in his career, this time in third place.

Matthias Walkner: “If you’d said to me before the rally I could finish in the top 3, I would have said, ‘where do I have to sign?’. So many things can happen on the road. We spend so many hours on our bikes. We saw Kevin Benavides run into trouble and Daniel Sanders crash. Danger lurks around every corner. There are always up and downs, so all in all, I’m really happy it all went so well, despite the stress. We came in first and third on our new bike, which is really great. I’m going to enjoy this podium spot, which almost feels like a victory. I gave it my all for 12 stages.”

Meanwhile, three other former champions embarked on an arguably impossible mission after flopping in the opening stages: it was 2021 all over again for Toby Price and Ricky Brabec, joined by the defending champion, Kevin Benavides, who had to withdraw from the overall classification due to a mechanical issue in stage 10.

Stand Out “Rookie” Performances

Two “rookies”, two polar opposites, stole the show in the motorcycle category, but it is hard to weigh up their respective performances. Danilo Petrucci was known for his previous career as a MotoGP rider, with two Grand Prix victories and four top 10 Championship finishes (sixth in 2019) on his list of achievements. One could be forgiven for believing he had only entered the Dakar on a lark, but the Italian proved on the tracks that his conversion was dead serious. Riders who learn as fast as “Petrux” are hard to come by. There is no other case in the collective memory of the Dakar of a rider who had never taken part in a rally raid before going on to win a stage. The 31-year-old newbie faded after his exploit in stage 5, eventually finishing the rally in 90th place.

At the tender age of 20, Mason Klein could already teach Petrucci a thing or two about consistency. The American prodigy turned heads in the Rallye du Maroc and lived up to the expectations. The California-based rider only found out about the Dakar in 2018, when he picked it as a goal. His baptism of fire ended with a podium finish and six top 6 places in stages and ninth place overall… Quite an impressive start.

Stage 12 Top 10 Motorcycle Rankings

FINAL Top 10 Motorcycle Rankings

January 13, 2022: Stage 11

The event organizers ensured there was a sting in the tail to this year’s Dakar Rally by delivering one of the most challenging stages of the race on the penultimate day. Technically demanding navigation combined with extremely soft sand and dunes tested the riders and their machines to the limit.

After a disappointing stage 10 yesterday in which his 2022 Dakar hopes came to an end, Kevin Benavides fought his way from a late, 33rd place start to ultimately win the stage by a narrow four seconds.

Kevin Benavides: “It was a really demanding day today. It’s great to get the win but I’m full of emotion because of the issue I had yesterday. Up to that point I was fighting for the overall, and now, after going fastest today I know I would have been in with a chance to win the rally. I gave it my all today, mostly to prove to myself that I could do it.”

Within striking distance Sam Sunderland, who needed to deliver a flawless ride to keep his chances of a second Dakar win alive, snatched the stage’s second place in front of Hero’s Joaquim Rodrigues. Now, with just one day of racing to go, the GASGAS rider 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 kms 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.”

Fastest to the first checkpoint, Matthias Walkner completed the stage in fourth place, moving up to third overall in the event standings. Matthias will be aiming to reduce the gap to the current leader during tomorrow’s stage and secure a podium position while also fighting for the rally win.

Matthias Walkner: “It was a really long and really fast stage today. It was very dusty this morning too, which made the navigation even more difficult. I made a few small mistakes, but I really did try my best all day pushing as hard as I could. Finally I was able to make the finish with a good time and it puts me in a good position for tomorrow, so we’ll see what happens.”

Ricky Brabec was the best-placed Monster Energy Honda Team rider of the day. The American finished in fifth place, moving up into six place overall, a position which he hopes to consolidate tomorrow. Teammate Pablo Quintanilla, sixth, performed well enough to be in contention tomorrow and could improve on his current second place in this 2022 Dakar. The Chilean biker is less than seven minutes behind the overall race leader. If the full length of the final special stage goes ahead as planned tomorrow, the rider could well spring a surprise and stand a chance of scooping the world’s toughest rally.

“There is still one day left and the race is not over until you cross the finish-line. Tomorrow we will attack again from the first km” – Pablo Quintanilla

Entering the penultimate day of the event as the provisional overall leader, Adrien Van Beveren suffered a frustrating navigational issue early on, which cost the Frenchman considerable time. Recovering the best he could to eventually place 15th, he now lies fourth overall.

Tomorrow’s stage

Bisha-Jeddah. The final stage of the Dakar Rally 2022 will be decided over a total of 676 kms, including just 163 against the clock. Leaving the dunes behind, the race will be fought over hard tracks with some sand. A lot of technical complexity is expected before the riders reach the shores of the Red Sea, with the final podium set to take place on the Bisha street circuit.

Stage 11 Top 10 Motorcycle Rankings

Stage 11 Top 10 Overall Motorcycle Rankings

January 12, 2022: Stage 10

A long, 759 km day in the saddle lay ahead of the riders as they entered stage 10 of the rally from Wadi Ad Dawasir to Bisha. The 375 km timed special was mostly made up of fast sandy tracks, with a couple of dirt sections and dunes adding to the mix. Although navigation was relatively straightforward, it was still easy to make a costly mistake when picking a route through the stage.

Despite his relatively late start position into today’s special, Toby Price decided to remain completely focused on his roadbook throughout the race. The tactic paid off as the two-time Dakar champ delivered a near-faultless run through the challenging stage that earned him the stage’s win. Toby is now sixth in the provisional rally standings where he trails the current leader by almost 28 minutes. A sizeable gap, but one the Aussie hopes to reduce over the final two days of racing.

“As we know, anything can happen in rally, so I’ll give it my all for these last two days and we’ll see where we end up.” – Toby Price

Completing the grueling special behind Price, Luciano Benavides showed great skill to take maximum advantage of his seventh-place start position and now moves up to 13th in the provisional overall standings.

Joining Benavides in the top 3 was Yamaha’s Adrien Van Beveren, who has retaken the lead at the Dakar Rally after Honda’s Ricky Brabec and Jose Ignacio Cornejo made a navigation blunder and their teammate Kevin Benavides withdrew from the race. Delivering his best result of the rally so far with a third-place finish, Van Beveren now returns to the head of the field with a near 6 minute advantage over his closest rival.

Yamaha’s Adrien Van Beveren re-takes the overall lead.

Van Beveren: “Navigation wasn’t easy today, especially with so many canyons in places, but I did a really good job, I think. I did struggle to find a couple of waypoints but otherwise it was another great stage for me. I went as fast as I could near the end and ended up in a good spot on the stage, and also in the overall. Tomorrow is a big day and opening will be difficult, but I’m ready for the challenge.”

Hot on the heels of his incredible ride yesterday, GASGAS’ Sam Sunderland was fired up for a repeat performance on today’s stage. Frustratingly, an unfortunate mistake in a series of rocky canyons prevented the early rally leader from featuring at the top of the timesheets today. However, thanks to his impressive stage results through the first nine days Sam remains in third overall, behind Honda’s Pablo Quintanilla.

Matthias Walkner seems to have also made a mistake during today’s race, allowing the rest of the field to catch up with him and getting knocked off the top 3 general ranking.

Walkner remains the best shot for KTM to win the Dakar, especially following the withdrawal of 2021 champion Kevin Benavides.

Matthias Walkner: “The Dakar is always a little bit up and down and today after I hit the front, I lost some time with a couple of small mistakes. The sun was really high today and it made visibility quite bad, which in turn made the pistes really difficult to see when you’re out front. It’s frustrating, but that’s always the way it is. Up to that point I think I was riding really well and making up good time. We still have two very long stages to go, so I’ll get some rest tonight and then be ready to attack again tomorrow.”

A Crushing Blow

Unfortunately for Kevin Benavides, his 2022 Dakar Rally campaign came to a close following a mechanical issue on stage 10. Starting the special in third, and making good time, the reigning Dakar Champion was forced to stop at kilometer 133. Unable to complete the stage, Kevin will return to the bivouac and hopefully re-start the event tomorrow, although he will not be eligible to feature in the final classification.

Tomorrow’s stage

Tomorrow will undoubtedly be one of the most interesting special stages of recent years, where several riders will make their bids for a final podium place in Jeddah the day after tomorrow. The battle will be epic. The loop to the Bisha bivouac will feature a total of 346 kms of timed section out of the 501 km total stage with 155 kms of liaison sections. Large helpings of sand and dunes will be present on the menu of this, the most decisive stage of the Dakar 2022.

Stage 10 Top 10 Motorcycle Rankings

Stage 10 Top 10 Overall Motorcycle Rankings

January 11, 2022: Stage 9

Fewer and fewer stages are left to decide the outcome of the 2022 Dakar Rally. Today, in the ninth stage, the 287-kilometer special stage around Wadi Ad-Dawasir began to mark out which riders will be in the final contention for the win. A total of 491 kilometers, through the Arabian Peninsula’s Empty Quarter, featured less sand than on previous days, but more mountain tracks running between canyons that demanded precise, mistake-free navigation.

Yesterday Nacho Cornejo had been left with a bittersweet taste after the eighth stage. A slight mistake towards the end of the special, had left the rider without the prize he had been ultimately seeking: that of minimizing any markings for his pursuers to follow while opening the track throughout the day. Today, he returned to the Wadi Ad-Dawasir bivouac with a smile in his helmet after a second win in this Dakar, taking the young Chilean’s total tally to five.

Right on the pace from the very start of today’s special, Kevin Benavides placed within the top three for much of the stage, despite the times being exceptionally close throughout the top 10. Steering his KTM 450 RALLY to a runner-up result, the reigning Dakar Champion moves back up the provisional rally order to fifth, just over 10 minutes behind the leader. Pushing hard behind Benavides, American rider Ricky Brabec rode a fine special, posting third place on the day. Joan Barreda also completed the day’s stage with a certain degree of normality, a mere 2’10 behind his teammate.

As the 4th rider into the stage, Matthias Walkner not only moved himself up into the provisional top spot knocking Sundeland off the lead, but also lost the minimum of time to his closest competitors while also securing himself another strong start position for Wednesday’s stage 10. Barreda, fifth on the stage, holds sixth in the general standings, less than 11 minutes behind the race leader.

For Adrien Van Beveren, a controlled ride through the fast stage nine special saw the Frenchman record the ninth fastest time, remaining third in the provisional standings. Meanwhile, his teammate Andrew Short delivered another strong stage finish posting the 6th fastest time and being rewarded with a return to 10th overall.

Tomorrow’s Stage

With two days to go until the end of the rally, riders can once again expect a navigation-filled day before the 759-kilometer trek is completed. About half the distance – some 375 kilometers – will be against the clock. The crossings and parallel tracks could be the undoing of more than a few bikers.

Stage 9 Top 10 Motorcycle Rankings

Stage 9 Top 10 Overall Motorcycle Rankings

January 10, 2022: Stage 8

The Dakar Rally heads into its final stretch and today, with the lengthiest stage of this edition, at 830 km, the mileage count takes a hefty leap forward. On the agenda were 395 kilometers of special stage across the southern part of Saudi Arabia, with plenty of sand and a lot of dunes to be tackled.

Tipped off the throne on top of the general rankings by Adrien Van Beveren, Sam Sunderland did not let the Yamaha rider enjoy this privilege for more than a day. The winner of the Dakar in 2017 set out to recapture the lead and achieved the day’s best time to regain the summit of the race’s hierarchy, whilst Beveren, hindered by a broken automatic scroller on his roadbook, crossed the finish line in 9th – moving to 3rd in the general standings.

Sam Sunderland takes back the throne, after achieving the fastest time in today’s stage.

Sam Sunderland: “That was a really challenging stage today. There was a lot of sand early on but then near the end there were a lot of canyons to navigate through. You had to be really patient and choose the right one as it would be so easy to get lost and lose time. The guys opening, fortunately, did a great job, which made things a little easier for me but after leading out yesterday, I know how tough that can be. Early on I was pushing hard and I was a bit too aggressive with a few small crashes in the sand so I had to settle down a bit, get into a rhythm, and it paid off as I was able to take the stage win. We have some long days ahead, but today’s result is just what I needed after everything that happened yesterday.”

Matthias Walkner sits in second position overall, clocking the third fastest time in the stage.

Pablo Quintanilla, 4th in the general rankings, has moved to within 5’30” of the leader thanks to his 2nd place on the day’s special. Behind his dust, KTM Matthias Walkner pushed hard right from the beginning and was able to complete the stage as third fastest. Joining him in the top 5 was Ricky Brabec, who also set a fierce pace, registering the day’s fourth best time. Mason Klein, who could already be called the revelation of this 44th edition of the Dakar, achieved the day’s fifth best time, 8’08” behind the winner and now occupies 10th place.

Meanwhile, Joan Barreda took another tumble on a dune early in the special that left him in some pain throughout the day. The Honda rider, who has already been enduring pain in his shoulder after crashing in Stage 5, still managed to finish 10th and holds 5th place overall, 14’38” behind the race leader.

Original by Motul Category

In the unassisted motorcycle category, Benjamin Melot has won a second consecutive special. He has overtaken Charan Moore in the general rankings to climb onto the third step of the provisional podium, 1 hour and 27 minutes behind Arūnas Gelažninkas and a little more than half an hour behind Milan Engel.

Tomorrow’s stage

The Wadi Ad-Dawasir loop, some 491 km in total, including 287 kms of timed special stage, will pass through a fairly unfamiliar area: the Arabian Peninsula’s Empty Quarter. Mountains and tracks between canyons will require a radically different riding style to the approach used until now. Less sand, but higher difficulty level, especially regarding the navigation.

Stage 8 Top 10 Motorcycle Rankings

Stage 8 Top 10 Overall Motorcycle Rankings

January 9, 2022: Stage 7

To kick off the second week of racing, the opening kilometers of the seventh stage were battled out over fast tracks, some peppered with stones, followed by a hundred kilometers of dunes. There was plenty of navigation in store over the timed 402 kilometers which took in valleys featuring some parallel tracks that proved the undoing of more than one rider.

Young Chilean José Ignacio ‘Nacho’ Cornejo took advantage of a good starting position this morning to set a lightning pace throughout the stage. With the terrain in optimal conditions, the rider from Iquique registered the quickest times at almost every waypoint en route, reaching the finish-line with the top marker after taking three-and-a-half hours to complete the special. Nacho now lies in ninth in the general standings, 26’37” behind the leader.

Finding the mixed terrain very much to his liking, reigning Dakar Champion Kevin Benavides made the very best use of his 13th place start position to work his way up through the field to ultimately complete the stage in second. The result gives the number one plate holder a huge boost in the overall standings, moving him from eighth up to third, just over five minutes behind the leader.

Joan Barreda once again pulled off an epic performance and was able to finish the stage amongst the frontrunners in spite of a shoulder injury – an arduous feat given the demanding terrain. Bang Bang reached Al Dawadimi to the applause of the entire Monster Energy Honda Team, gritting his teeth throughout the entire stage, with surprising speed, to eventually post third. The Spaniard now occupies seventh in the Dakar, 8’30” behind the leader.

Yamaha rider Adrien Van Beveren has kicked off the second week of the race in style by moving into the provisional overall lead after successfully completing a challenging stage seven. Continuing what has been an incredibly promising race for the Frenchman so far, his 10th place finish moves him to the top of the leaderboard with a healthy five-minute advantage over his nearest rival, Matthias Walkner. Andrew Short was the team’s fastest rider through the 401-kilometer special, finishing eighth to move into 10th in the provisional standings.

Unfortunately for Sam Sunderland, his position at the top of the podium got snatched away and now lies fourth overall in the provisional standings, after placing 28th in the stage.

Meanwhile, Ross Branch continued the adventure today after crashing out on stage six, ending up with a DNF. Able to gain vital Dakar experience, despite riding in pain and navigational challenges he enjoyed the 401 km stage to place 12th.

Daniel Sanders Out of Dakar

You win some. You lose some. You learn that when it comes to the Dakar Rally anything can happen. After what was a truly awesome first week of desert racing by GASGAS rider Daniel Sanders, his rally came to a disappointing end today when a crash during the liason fractured his left elbow and wrist.

Stage 7 Top 10 Motorcycle Rankings

Stage 7 Top 10 Overall Motorcycle Rankings

January 8, 2022: Rest Day

The third Dakar held in Saudi Arabia has reached the rest day with competitors using the downtime to recharge their batteries ahead of the forthcoming final week. So far, riders have endured 1,627 km of specials and 2,170 km of liaisons, for a total of almost 4,000 grueling kilometers of dunes, rocks and river crossings.

Opening the rally with a win for GASGAS, Daniel Sanders took the inaugural special, picking up another two victories in subsequent stages and leading the general standings for two days before passing on the torch to his teammate Sam Sunderland, who has defended his lead for four stages so far. In other words, GASGAS has been in command since Jeddah.

Meanwhile, KTM’s Matthias Walkner has been sitting in second place, 2′39″ down, since stage 3. The reigning world champion is locked in a fierce battle with Yamaha’s Adrien Van Beveren, who stood second and then third until he was ejected from the provisional podium yesterday. At 7′43″ behind the leader, he trails Sanders, who has moved back within 5′35″ of his teammate. Quintanilla, the best performing asset of the Honda stable, which won the race last year, is in fifth place at 15′43″, less than three minutes ahead of Lorenzo Santolino at 18′22″. The Sherco rider, sixth in the 2021 Dakar, is slotted in the same position after reaching fifth place on three occasions.

Five brands (GasGas, KTM, Yamaha, Honda and Sherco) make up the top 6 on the rest day. Hero Motorsport have good reason to be proud of their maiden Dakar victory. Joaquim Rodrigues came through for the Indian squad, as did the astonishing Danilo Petrucci for KTM. The Italian, who claimed two Grand Prix victories in his previous avatar as a MotoGP racer, took stage 5 in his first rally raid. Meanwhile, Honda’s veteran biker, Joan “Bang Bang” Barreda, continued to fire at will, bringing his tally to 29 stage wins, but a crash two days ago left him nursing a broken collarbone as the race gears up for the return trip to Jeddah.

In a repeat of last year, the winners of the previous editions have been slowly but steadily clawing their way up the standings after a torrid start. Defending champion Kevin Benavides, now riding for KTM, is no exception. The Argentinian is 25 minutes down on the leader, with Price at 39′09″ and Brabec even further back at 49′20″. The American is experiencing the same scenario as last year, when he got back in contention in the second week and finished the race in second place. In light of the small gaps separating the top 15, there remains a lot to play for.

Mason Klein, in contrast, could not have asked for a better Dakar debut. The 20-year-old rookie, tenth overall at 37′08″, is playing in the big league and leads the Rally2 category by 39′37″ over another newcomer, Bradley Cox, son of KTM legend Alfie Cox, sitting in twentieth place. The third Rally2 biker, Camille Chapelière, lies twenty-second overall at 50′10″. Among experienced private competitors, Štefan Svitko (seventh) trails the leader by 24′29″, with Xavier de Soultrait (fourteenth) at 47′25″ and Martin Michek (nineteenth) at 1 h 11′47″.

End of the Race

Unfortunately, riders Skyler Howes and Ross Branch are out due to crashes.

Original by Motul Class

In the Original by Motul class for riders racing without support crews, reigning champion Arūnas Gelažninkas leads Milan Engel and South African rookie Charan Moore. Two regular fixtures, “Benji” Melot and Romanian Emanuel Gyenes, who was runner-up last year after winning the 2020 edition, round out the top 5. 33 of these “convicts of the desert” are still in the race. Almost five hours separate the Lithuanian from the biker running dead last, Amaury Baratin, 135th overall after spending 25 hours more on the saddle than Sam Sunderland!

Tomorrow’s Stage

The 402-kilometer special stage tomorrow will see riders having to contend with 100 km of dunes. It will be sand and more sand from the get-go and will be heavy on the navigation. This could prove the key moment to attack and climb positions in the general standings, but the parallel tracks might cause some headaches for even the most determined riders.

Top 10 Overall Motorcycle Rankings

January 7, 2022: Stage 6

Today’s stage was held amid dismal track conditions, given that the cars and trucks had competed over the same route a day earlier. Riders set out well-aware that they would have their work cut out on this tough, physical stage. However, race organizers quickly realized just how treacherous the route was for most riders: “The deterioration of the track due to the passage of cars and trucks yesterday, combined with recent torrential rains, has made the route impassable,” announced the ASO mid-stage. This forced the organizers to stop the stage at kilometer 101 cutting its length to approximately a quarter of the originally scheduled total.

Hard charging his way through the treacherous stage, Australian Daniel Sanders posted the fastest time of the day, moving up to third in the general standings. Over two minutes behind his teammate, Sam Sunderland delivered a one-two for GASGAS as the runner-up of the day, holding on to his place as the leader of the Dakar.

Sam Sunderland: “Ahead of today there were quite a few riders concerned about how the stage would be after the trucks had raced it yesterday, and it was unbelievable out there. So many rocks and square edges where trucks spin up the dirt and leave the rocks behind. So, on a bike, you’re basically coming up to half meter high walls of rock everywhere. You then start going offline to find smooth lines but then your roadbook isn’t quite right as you’ve ridden away from the correct line. For me it was the right decision for it to be shortened today and I’m happy to reach the halfway point still in the lead.”

Behind Sunderland’s dust, Matthias Walkner posted the third fastest time. The experienced Austrian took extra care on the heavily rutted ground and aimed for a safe finish to the stage. Matthias now sits second overall at the close of the first week of racing, trailing the current rally leader by under three minutes. Joining Walkner in the Top 5 were Honda’s Ricky Brabec and Pablo Quintanilla, who took 4th and 5th respectively. As the sixth rider to enter the stage, privateer Mason Klein continues to impress with his strong performance throughout the race, placing him in the top 10 of the general standings.

Joan Barreda Continues

The shortened stage proved to be a blessing for Joan Barreda, who this morning started still visibly in pain after yesterday’s fall where he injured his shoulder. Battling through the pain, Barreda set off from the bivouac with gritted teeth to the applause of the Honda HRC team. The Monster Energy Honda Team rider was able to complete today’s partial stage in 14th place and will be grateful to have reached the rest day. “Bang Bang” has previously been forced to drop out five times and does not want to make it six for his 12th participation.

Ross Branch Is Out

After narrowly missing out on the stage win yesterday, Ross Branch’s time at the Dakar came to an abrupt end early on in stage six after he was caught out by a rock ledge that pitched the Botswana native from his Yamaha WR450F Rally. Fortunate to escape serious injury during the incident, Ross’ machine was too badly damaged to continue, in addition to suffering from a heavy impact on his upper leg.

Tomorrow’s stage

There will be no stage tomorrow. After six days of tough racing, the competitors have earned a well-deserved rest day. After arriving at the bivouac today, the riders will have the entire day to relax and prepare both physically and mentally for the second week of competition, set to recommence the day after tomorrow, on Sunday, with the seventh stage: Riyadh-Al Dawadimi.

Stage 6 Top 10 Motorcycle Rankings

Stage 6 Top 10 Overall Motorcycle Rankings

January 6, 2022: Stage 5

Today was the first time in Dakar history that riders and drivers were assigned a completely different route. In the past some portions of a special have been different for safety reasons but never an entire stage. Nevertheless, the stage proved to be extremely challenging for competitors with 341 km of mixed terrain, very tricky navigation and several crashes.

Despite today’s challenging race, Danilo Petrucci snatched the stage win, making history by becoming the first MotoGP rider to taste victory on a stage of the Dakar. Although initial results placed Toby Price four minutes ahead of the Italian, Price was knocked off the podium down to fifth place after receiving a six-minute penalty for speeding. Unfortunately, the MotoGP star has no shot at the title, due to mechanical problems in stage 2 that forced him to withdraw from the overall classification.

Danilo Petrucci makes history by becoming the first former MotoGP rider to win a stage at Dakar.

Danilo Petrucci: “Today was quite a long day. I set off this morning and decided I really wanted to learn and improve my navigation, so I didn’t push too hard at the beginning. After one corner there was a large dune with a group of camels on the other side. One big camel came into the track, and I had to avoid it, but ended up crashing after going across a lot of bumps and camel grass. That was my very first crash of this Dakar. After that I eased off a bit and Kevin caught up with me and we rode together towards the finish. After catching a few more riders we came across a waypoint that didn’t validate for everyone – I lost some time there. The last 60 kilometers were all dunes and so I was very careful there to make sure I didn’t hurt my ankle. So, it’s been an interesting and tough day, but I have really enjoyed it.”

Stamping his mark on the Dakar Rally, Yamaha’s Ross Branch was on the pace from the moment he entered stage five to complete today’s special with the second fastest time. As the 14th rider to take on the stage, the Botswana native was able to benefit from the lines left by the leading riders. Following his result, Ross advances from 11th to 7th in the provisional classification.

“It’s been a long rally for me. I’ve had some ups and downs, some really bad navigational errors, so I’ve tried to fix that and today it looked like it worked out.” – Ross Branch.

Joining Branch in the stage’s top 3 was Honda’s José Ignacio Cornejo who was only five seconds from Petrucci and leapfrogged three positions up the general standings. Behind the Chilean, American rider Ricky Brabec placed fourth in the stage, moving 2 position up in the overall ranking. U.S. riders Mason Klein (6th) and Andrew Short (7th) also had a strong showing.

After his heavy fall yesterday, Sam Sunderland knew that he was in for a tough day of racing today. But knowing he needed to deliver a strong result to maintain his lead in the rally, the experienced Brit managed to ignore the neck and shoulder pain he was experiencing to bravely complete the fifth stage as the 12th fastest rider. Now, with just one stage to go before the event’s much needed rest day, Sam retains his place at the top of the overall timesheets.

Meanwhile it was a tough day for yesterday’s winner Joan Barreda who fell from his bike between the 265 and 270 km marks, injuring his shoulder. Although he was able to finish the stage, he is allowing himself until tomorrow morning before deciding whether to carry on with the adventure or not. If “Bang Bang” is forced to withdraw, it will be his sixth premature exit in 12 participations.

Skyler Howes Is Out

Skyler Howes came off his bike on the day’s special. The Husqvarna rider hit his head and does not remember anything about his fall, but nevertheless managed to make it to the finish line. He started feeling unwell immediately after arriving and with ankle and shoulder injuries as well, Howes was taken to the hospital by the organization teams to undergo further examinations. In any event, the American will have to skip the rest of the 44th edition of the Dakar. It is a big blow for Howes, who finished fifth last year and was in eighth place at the beginning of the day’s stage, as well as being the highest placed Husqvarna rider.

Stage 5 Interrupted For Bikes

Faced with great demand placed on the medical aircraft dedicated to the bike race, officials decided, shortly after midday, to stop the stage in order to ensure the safety of the competitors. Race officials are still weighing up different options on how to classify the riders who had finished and to decide what to do with the rest of the riders who were still out on the tracks.

Stage 5 Top 10 Motorcycle Rankings

Stage 5 Top 10 Overall Motorcycle Rankings

January 5, 2022: Stage 4

The first third of the race came to an end with stage 4, a formidable challenge and, at 465 km, the longest special of the 2022 Dakar. The first 40km section was packed with enough forks in the road to give competitors a headache. Then came a tricky dune area and, to cap it all, a finale with technical rocky sections and water crossings on the menu. All in all, a high-paced affair that would begin to mark out the riders who will end up in possible contention for the final Dakar title.

Starting in 24th place, Joan Barreda made the most of the longest special of the rally to set out on a spectacular ride, picking up his teammate Pablo Quintanilla along the way as a trusted companion for navigation and going flat out right up to the finish line to take the spoils for the day. And it was only his 29th Dakar victory! The rider from Valencia also soared to seventh place overall, within striking distance of the top 5.

Joan Barreda | Monster Energy Honda Team

Delivering a one-two for Honda was Pablo Quintanilla, who’s advantageous starting position also helped him follow the trail of his teammate. The Chilean turned out a very steady stage, consistently among the top three, untimately posting the fastest second time of the day. Joining him in the top 3 was Sherco rider Rui Goncalves, who snatched his first stage podium at Dakar.

Pablo Quintanilla | Monster Energy Honda Team

Meanwhile, Sam Sunderland continues to lead the 2022 Dakar Rally with the British racer now enjoying a three-minute advantage over his closest rival, Matthias Walkner, in the overall standings. Chasing down the leading riders from his 17th place starting position on today’s special, the Brit would ultimately complete the stage as the seventh fastest rider after crashing on his way to the finish line.

Sam Sunderland continues to lead the Dakar 2022.

Sam Sunderland: “ROUGH DAY! Km 200 I hit my disk on a rock and bent it so was without a rear brake (seems to be a habit of mine) then at km 300 while searching for a waypoint in the rocks I was looking down to check the GPS and hit a big rock and had a barely dingle right out the front door and gave my head and shoulder a good whack. The rest of the stage (160km) was survival mode with no rear brake and lack off focus made for some character building. Still leading the overall which is a nice positive after day like that! We will try to learn from it and look forward to tomorrow!”

Enjoying third place overall, is Yamaha’s Adrien Van Beveren who brought his WR450F Rally home in 11th place. So far, it looks like things are looking better for Yamaha, one year after their abysmal performance at 2021 Dakar.

Performance of the day

In the longest stage of this Dakar edition, Sherco riders Rui Gonçalves and Lorenzo Santolino finished together in third and fourth place, respectively, behind Honda’s Barreda and Quintanilla. Yesterday, Rui posted the breakthrough performance of the first part of the race. Today, he pulled off a podium finish, his first ever in the Dakar, in only his second participation. The ever-consistent Santo has finished sixth, fifteenth and fourth since the start in Jeddah and is sitting in fifth place overall, 10′28″ behind the leader, one third through the rally.

Rui Goncalves snatched his first stage podium at Dakar, in only his second participation.

Sherco’s success comes months after the race service at its factory in Nîmes went up in smoke in an accidental fire last September. The mechanics only managed to save the race motorbikes. This setback made preparations for the Dakar even more difficult, but it failed to dampen the motivation of the French technical staff, which got its first reward for the efforts made to bring the three overhauled 450 SEF Rally motorbikes to the start line. “Impossible is not French”, or so the old saying goes, and Sherco has proved it by winning the trial and enduro world championships. This year, it has stepped up to the Dakar challenge again and thrown its hat into the ring for the World Rally-Raid Championship in single-minded pursuit of one goal: to make these words a reality.

Tomorrow’s Stage

Starting and finishing at the bivouac in Riyadh, competitors will face a new loop on this Dakar, although it won’t be the last one. The changes of terrain from dirt to stone-littered tracks will put a strain on the physiques of even the toughest riders in the opening half of the special. If that were not enough, then 50 km of dunes will divide the wheat from the chaff.

Stage 4 Top 10 Motorcycle Rankings

Stage 4 Top 10 Overall Motorcycle Rankings

January 4, 2022: Stage 3

Today the competitors had to tackle a special that was shortened by 100km due to the heavy rain that soaked a part of the region of Al Artawiyah. With wet sand covering the tracks and dunes, the special delivered a fast-paced challenge to all competitors that was easier in terms of navigation, and as such, times at the top were close.

Grabbing his first-ever stage Dakar victory, Portugal’s Joaquim Rodrigues maintained his lead at each check point throughout the stage, ultimately snatching first place once the dust settled. His stage win is the first for Hero Motorsport as well, the Indian brand for whom he made his debut in 2017. It is also a very emotional achievement for the rider after enduring the death of his team-mate and brother-in-law Paulo Gonçalves in January of 2020.

“It’s my first stage victory on the Dakar and it’s historical for the team, I’m really, really happy. I was riding well and so fast that I even said to myself, ‘Paulo is riding with me here.’ I think he and I won here today,” said Joaquim.

Meanwhile, in what has been his best stage so far, Toby Price maintained good speed and fought his way up to second. “Today has been a good day – super fast, so you can’t really make up time on anyone. We had some lines in the dunes that you could see, so I just tried to make a good clean stage and not make any big mistakes. I did have one little get-off, but other than that, nothing major.”

Right behind Toby’s dust was Mason Klein – one of the biggest revelations at this year’s Dakar. Today the privateer impressed once again with his strong performance, posting the third fastest time of the day. The 20 year old moves to 13th overall.

Elsewhere, Husqvarna’s Skyler Howes continues to put in strong and consistent results, claiming his second fourth-place stage finish in a row to move himself up to fourth in the provisional overall standings. Skyler now trails the event leader by under four minutes.

For his 31st birthday, Adrien Van Beveren comes within only 4 seconds of moving Sam Sunderland from the top of the overall classification.

Although today’s results didn’t shuffle the leaders of the overall classification, the gaps between them narrowed before the major battle expected tomorrow on the way to Riyadh. For his 31st birthday, Adrien Van Beveren was within 4 seconds of deposing his rival Sam Sunderland from the top of the race hierarchy, on which Matthias Walkner (3rd) also closed in. In total, five brands were represented in the top 6, with the Sherco ridden by Lorenzo Santolino in 6th place.

Danilo Petrucci Continues the Adventure

Suffering a technical issue yesterday, Tech3 KTM Factory Racing’s Danilo Petrucci was forced to withdraw from the stage. Returning to the team at the bivouac, the electrical problem was found and rectified, and the Italian rider was cleared to rejoin the race by using the ‘Joker’ option, although he will no longer feature in the event classification. Setting off 51st into today’s stage three, Petrucci immediately began fighting for a top-20 position, despite the traffic he had to encounter. A small mistake towards the end of the stage cost him a couple of minutes, but Danilo was able to get 22nd place.

“I’m really happy to be able to continue riding today after the issue I had yesterday. Yes, I’ve lost one stage, but it feels good to be racing again. I really enjoyed the stage today, the goal was just to get to the end, but it was very fast and really good fun. There were a lot of lines in the sand, but I still tried to read the roadbook and learn more in the way of my own navigation. I did make a couple of small mistakes, but it feels so good to be back on the bike. I have nine more stages to continue learning and I’m looking forward to it.”

Tomorrow’s Stage

The fourth stage will see the entire Dakar bivouac transfer to the Saudi Arabian capital, Riyadh. It will feature the longest special stage of the race, with 465 km out of a total distance of 707 km. From Al Qaisumah, riders and drivers will encounter a myriad of terrain types, each one more demanding than the previous: some 200 km of fast track, dunes, rocks, stones and oueds – dry rivers crossings – which could cause some shake-ups in the general standings.

Stage 3 Top 10 Motorcycle Rankings

Stage 3 Top 10 Overall Motorcycle Rankings

January 3, 2022: Stage 2

Genuinely swamped by the rain, the bivouac at Al Artawiyah was deprived of the very special evening of the marathon stage it was originally planned to host. Nevertheless, bowing to nature is in the DNA of the rally-raid discipline: in an expeditious manner, the organizers and competitors re-routed to the stage 3 bivouac. The 338.43-kilometer special stage, however, remained intact, but with the riders’ liaison section to the new bivouac lengthened for a total 453-kilometer trek. Dunes were the main feature of the day: a quarter of the timed special stage was made up of various ridges of dunes.

After several navigation difficulties in yesterday’s stage, Joan Barreda made quite the comeback today. The Spaniard, who started from a favorable position to attack, let no-one stand between him and his goal, completing the special with a surplus of five-and-a-half minutes over the stage’s nearest second best rider. Barreda now holds a tally of 28 Dakar Rally stage wins, making him the third most successful motorcycle rider in the rally’s history after Peterhansel and Despres (33).

Joan Barreda | Photo:

Starting sixth on stage two, Sam Sunderland put together a faultless display of riding and navigation to catch the front runners, lead the stage, and then bring his GASGAS 450 Rally machine home in second place, ahead of Kevin Benavides. The strong result moves the Brit to the top of the provisional leaderboard where he now enjoys a near three-minute advantage over his nearest rival.

Sam Sunderland | Photo: Rally Zone

Sunderland was joined in the stage’s top five by Skyler Howes who claimed a solid fourth place and Toby Price, who built his pace throughout the day and fought his way up the order to snatch the fifth position.

Tomorrow’s Stage 3 has also been affected due to the change of today’s bivouac. Race organizers yesterday decided to cancel the first sector of the special, so riders will not have to complete the 368-kilometer timed stage.

A Crushing Blow

Truly, when your luck is out, it really is out… Today, Danilo Petrucci gave the perfect illustration of this adage. It all began on the 6th of December when the native of Terni broke his right ankle and heel. Nonetheless, he still came to Saudi Arabia to see how things would unfold and he soon realized that it was within his possibilities to race, even if it meant soldiering on through gritted teeth. However, a stumbling block was thrown up when he tested positive for Covid-19 two days before the start. After a further test, the former MotoGP winner finally received the green light to make his dream of racing on the Dakar come true. Petrucci is fast, in fact he is very fast, as shown by his second place in the overall classification for the Rally2 category on the evening of stage 1B. Yet, after withstanding the pain of his injuries and the threat of Covid-19, it was in fact a mechanical problem that put paid to the hopes of the Tech3 rider, as his KTM ground to a halt after 115 km of the day’s special. He strove to repair, but in vain and, in the end, was airlifted from the stage. Petrucci has not yet thrown in the towel, because he can play the trump card that allows him to continue the adventure and gain experience in the rally-raid discipline.

Stage 2 Top 10 Motorcycle Rankings

Stage 2 Top 10 Overall Motorcycle Rankings

January 2, 2022: Stage 1

After overnight rain came down over Ha’il and northern Saudi Arabia, mist enveloped the area as the first competitors departed the bivouac in the wee hours. Yesterday’s prologue stage was a mere curtain-raiser for the riders, but today the Dakar challenge turned serious. Navigation was the main protagonist of the day at several key points along the sandy tracks of the 333-kilometer special stage, in particular, some 50 km from the end of the special where several riders lost their way. However, with the Dakar barely underway, anything can still potentially happen.

After setting a blistering time and winning yesterday’s Prologue, Daniel Sanders has maintained his impressive speed to secure victory on today’s opening stage. Opting to enter the stage as the 15th rider and chase down the riders ahead, the Aussie’s game plan worked perfectly with the GASGAS RC 450F Rally racer winning the special by over three minutes to maintain his place at the top of the overall provisional classification.

Daniel Sanders: “After winning the Prologue yesterday I got to choose my starting position and opted to start in 15th and then focus on chasing after the guys up front. There was some tricky navigation near the end of the special but I kept cool, avoided any huge errors and then l lead the stage to the end. This was great for me as it made sure I focused on my roadbook and as I’ll lead out tomorrow – it was good to get a little experience of riding alone up front.”

Honda’s Chilean rider, Pablo Quintanilla was once again the stage’s runner-up and is also second in the general standings, where he trails the two-time stage winner by 3′07″. Further back, Matthias Walkner conceded over 10 minutes as many other favorites made navigation mistakes that could potentially be fatal to their title prospects: Kevin Benavides lost 36 minutes, Joan Barreda, 41, and Toby Price, 47.

“It was a bit of a rough one today. There was one note that just didn’t seem to add up properly. I ended up getting lost there for over 45 minutes. It’s not the best way to start the rally but it’s still early days.” – Toby Price

It was a rough day for Toby Price and many other rally favorites.

“It was a tricky day for navigation, the rainfall complicated things for sure. It was a tough first stage. I was in a strong group and we came to the finish line together as fast as we could.” – Matthias Walkner

The day also proved to be a complicated one for Joan Barreda, Ricky Brabec and José Ignacio Cornejo. The three experienced complications at one of the stage’s trickiest points and ended up conceding several minutes, dropping them down the RallyGP order.

“I feel like my rally is over” – Ricky Brabec.

“I feel like my rally is over. I said the same thing last year on the first day, but I lost a lot more time today. I opened the stage really well today, I thought, until I let my team-mate pass me for three minutes. Here we are now, really far back. I hope my team-mate Pablo has a good rally and we are here for him,” said Brabec.

Meanwhile, privateer Mason Klein put out an incredible performance finishing 5th in the stage on the BAS KTM. At only 20 years of age, the young American is already making a name for himself and could potentially be one of the revelations of this 44th edition, but he’s keeping his feet planted firmly on the ground; the most important thing is reaching the finish line.

The second stage of the Dakar, set to take place tomorrow, will be dominated by dunes. There will be several stretches of dunes occupying about a quarter of the 338-kilometer special stage. With a total of 568 km, this was intended to be the only marathon stage of the 2022 Dakar, finishing in Al Artawiyah, but due to a heavy downpour yesterday which flooded the originally planned site, the bivouac has been moved to Al Qaisumah. As a result, there is no scheduled marathon stage and RallyGP riders will be able to receive external mechanical assistance like on any other race day.

Stage 1 Top 10 Rankings

January 1, 2022: Prologue (Stage 1A)

The 409 vehicles on the start list inaugurated the Dakar with a short 19 km sprint that gave competitors their first racing test of the competition in an all-sand timed sector. The prologue’s results gave the top 15 finishers the opportunity to pick their starting order in tomorrow’s opening stage – a strategic decision that can give riders an advantage, specially in the dunes, where following riders is easier than leading.

Setting the fastest time for the GasGas marque was last year’s top rookie Daniel Sanders who completed the prologue a full minute ahead of Honda’s new recruit, Pablo Quintanilla.

“It was a pretty fast day. The prologue went really clean for me. It’s great to be back here in Saudi Arabia and racing on this terrain again. At the moment I’m leading so that’s good. I’m excited to carry on and today was good to shake off some nerves,” said Sanders.

Following Yamaha’s disappointing performance at the last Dakar, Ross Branch hopes today marks a change of luck for the Japanese manufacturer after achieving the third fastest time of the prologue – 5 seconds faster than the reigning champ Kevin Benavides. Branch is also joined in the top five by Matthias Walkner. Former champion Sam Sunderland was seventh, while two-time winner Toby Price was one place further back in eighth.

Honda’s Ricky Brabec is poised to take back the coveted Dakar throne.

Honda’s Joan Barreda and Ricky Brabec, 10th and 12th, respectively, will have to settle for scraps when the time comes to choose their starting position for stage 1B. Nacho Cornejo, instead, came to the conclusion that the only winning move was not to play. His sandbagging cost him some time (8′45″), but he will be racing from a vantage point. The rider made no secret of his strategy at the bivouac in Ha’il. “Today, there was a lot to be gained, but even more to be lost in the middle of the pack of 15, so I decided to play it safe. I lost some time today, but I’ll get opportunities to claw it back in the coming days”.

Stat Of The Day

Daniel Sanders, who claimed top rookie honors and finished just outside the podium last year, grabbed his maiden Dakar stage win in the opener. It was a first in more than one way, as the Australian also netted GasGas its first triumph in the most prestigious rally raid on Earth. GasGas is the 13th manufacturer to take a stage in the Dakar motorbike race.

Prologue Top 10 Rankings

Author: ADV Pulse Staff

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