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ADV NewsWatch: Dakar Champ Sam Sunderland’s Daredevil Ride in Dubai

Watch: Dakar Champ Sam Sunderland’s Daredevil Ride in Dubai

A race through the desert to the tallest building in the world.

Published on 01.13.2022

While GasGas Factory Team rider Sam Sunderland has been jostling to hold the lead position in Dakar 2022 this week, Red Bull is treating his fans to a sizzle reel of the Brit rider demonstrating his superior riding skills in a variety of scenes around Dubai. 

The video finds Sam, who won the Dakar in 2017 and took 3rd in 2019 and 2021, chilling poolside, deep within a UAE desert-scape, when he receives a call from two-time Dakar champ Toby Price, letting him know he’s late for a photoshoot at the famous Burj Khalifa skyscraper in downtown Dubai, a.k.a. the tallest building in the world. 

The next five minutes are a pure moto-viewing bliss as Sam first tears across the Dubai Desert on his trusty KTM 450 Rally Factory race bike, a mount he recently swapped in real life for the GasGas RC 450F he rides in the 2022 Dakar. Yup, Sam Sunderland was a fixture on the KTM Factory Racing Team for six seasons, but now headlines the GasGas roster, part of the KTM family under the Pierer Mobility AG umbrella. 


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When Sam arrives in the mountainous Hatta region, a crew member is waiting with a #3 plated KTM MX bike, better suited than the 450 Rally to carry Sam over the dunes and stunt-worthy downtown structures he encounters on his way to the spindly Burj Khalifa. 

Once on the smaller bike, Sam tears around heart-themed Love Island, then shows us what the lighter mount is capable of, soaring over dunes (that whip at 2:22!) just outside the city. One of the most unusual shots (2:40) shows the Dakar champ riding across a paved highway that’s literally being consumed by the constantly-shifting desert sands. 

Along the way there are stunts in the Arabian mini-city of Madinat Jumeirah and at the Jumeirah Mina A’Salam hotel before Sam roosts across a classic Dubai photo op, La Mer beach, with the iconic sail-shaped Burj Al Arab in the background.

After terrorizing the golfers and greens at the Emirates Golf Club, Sam finally navigates the Dubai Mall, situated at the base of the Burj Khalifa. 

As Sam, now on foot, makes his way to the 2,722-foot tip of the Burj Khalifa, where he’ll stand on a tiny platform, arms outstretched, for a photograph, it’s refreshing to see the seemingly fearless rider is daunted by something. “I’m not the kind of guy to get scared and freak out…but I feel scared.” he says to the helicopter-riding photographer. Afterward Sam says the experience was “unreal” and that letting go with his hands when the photographer counted down from three was the scariest thing he’s done in his life. 

The stunts in Dubai are no doubt the furthest thing from Sam’s mind today, as he’s just recaptured the overall lead in Dakar 2022’s Stage 11. This, after he lost the top spot due to a poor finish in Stage 9, after holding it from Stage 2 through 7. 

With one Dakar stage to go, Sam is experiencing yet another white-knuckle challenge. Sure, mounting the tip of the Burj Khalifa might have provided a moment of terror, but rally racing through the Saudi desert day after day, all while teetering on the razor’s edge of winning or losing the whole thing, is a truer test of courage. 

Photography by Naim Chidiac / Red Bull Content Pool

Author: Jamie Elvidge

Jamie has been a motorcycle journalist for more than 30 years, testing the entire range of bikes for the major print magazines and specializing in adventure-travel related stories. To date she’s written and supplied photography for articles describing what it’s like to ride in all 50 states and 43 foreign countries, receiving two Lowell Thomas Society of American Travel Writer’s Awards along the way. Her most-challenging adventure yet has been riding in the 2018 GS Trophy in Mongolia as Team AusAmerica’s embedded journalist.

Author: Jamie Elvidge
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One thought on “Watch: Dakar Champ Sam Sunderland’s Daredevil Ride in Dubai

  1. A heart-stopping 6-minute video, fantastic still photos, and excellent writing by Jamie Elvidge, as usual. I loved seeing so many scenes of Dubai, as well as the skills of this daredevil rider Sam Sunderland.

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