“I gave my all today”. Sam Sunderland wins Dakar Rally Stage 11!
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Sam Sunderland has won stage 11 of the 2021 Dakar Rally. Putting in an impressive performance through the demanding 464km timed special, the Brit made up over six minutes on his rivals and now lies second overall in the provisional standings. KTM Factory Racing’s Daniel Sanders enjoyed another strong stage finishing in fourth, with Matthias Walkner less than one-minute behind in fifth.
Images courtesy of Rally Zone
Despite being shortened from its original 511km to 464km, the timed special on stage 11 still proved to be hugely challenging for all competitors. Featuring close to 100km of dunes as well as fast tracks through tricky-to-navigate canyons, the penultimate stage of the Dakar tested the already-exhausted riders to their limits.
Third overall coming into today’s stage and with an advantageous start position of eighth, Sam Sunderland set off 15 minutes behind the rally leader with every intention of chasing him down. Knowing the long special offered a great chance to improve his position in the overall classification, Sunderland made the best use of his speed and experience to close in on his rivals. Taking the lead of the stage by the fourth checkpoint at kilometer 215, the Brit remained in front on time from there to the finish. Although a small navigational error cost him some minutes in the final kilometers, Sam claimed the win on the stage and did enough to move himself up to second in the provisional overall standings.
Sam Sunderland: “I gave my all today – I knew this stage would be one of the best chances I had to make up time on the guys in front. It’s great to win the stage, but it means I have to open tomorrow for the last day, which will be hard. Still, anything can happen as we know, and I’ll keep fighting right to the end. It’s been another really long, tough stage but I’m grateful to be able to just race my bike through the desert, especially with everything that is going on in the world at the moment. I’m grateful to my team too for all the hard work they have put in to get us here. The plan now is to do my best again tomorrow and we’ll see where we are.”
Continuing to push and climb up the standings, Matthias Walkner put in an impressive ride on the day’s challenging stage to claim fifth place and with it elevate himself to 12th overall. Just outside the top 10 going into the final day of racing, despite losing over two hours back on stage two, Walkner now hopes to claw back even more time on tomorrow’s stage 12.
Matthias Walkner: “It was another really long day, but I’m super happy to be ready for the last stage now. I was quite happy with my riding, but I was a little nervous with Sam and Daniel behind me because they are both fighting for the top positions and I didn’t want to make too much dust. I got a bit lost and let them past and then from there we rode together to finish with quite a good speed. Overall, the day was good fun and I’m happy to be here at the finish.”
Another strong day of racing in the dunes saw KTM Factory Racing’s Daniel Sanders complete a fourth stage at the 2021 Dakar inside the top five. Not only that, but the rally rookie finished just eight and a half minutes down on the flying Sunderland. As such, he moves up to a highly commendable fourth in the provisional overall standings. With one final stage remaining, the young Australian is looking forward to Friday’s short stage 12 and hopefully the chance to successfully complete his first ever Dakar Rally.
Daniel Sanders: “I started really well this morning with my navigation and managed to make up a lot of time by the first refueling stop at about kilometer 150. After that I was in the dust from the guys in front a little and just had to focus on my road book. Sam caught us, so I let him lead through the dunes and then coming into the last part of the stage there was some really tricky navigation. I think it’s been my favorite stage of the event so far, we did some really cool stuff riding between the canyons and then into the dunes. It’s been a difficult race, but I’m feeling good, and all being well I’m looking forward to finishing my first Dakar tomorrow.”
The 2021 Dakar Rally concludes with Friday’s stage 12. Competitors will once again face a long day in the saddle covering a total of 452km from Yanbu to the finish line at Jeddah. A relatively short timed special of 225km will give riders the chance to make a final push and improve on their results in time to take the checkered flag. The stage could still throw up a few surprises however with tricky to negotiate dunes combined with technical navigation testing racers for one last time at this year’s event.