Sunderland ninth in Dakar Rally stage 6 – Red Bull KTM team report
Following Thursday’s exhausting stage five, riders were hoping for an easier time on the final special before the rest day. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case. Despite being shortened to 347km from the original length of 448km, stage six truly tested all competitors’ navigation skills and stamina by delivering a tough day made up of sandy, twisting tracks, before opening out into a mixture of both hard dirt trails and soft dunes.
Toby Price backed up his strong third-place finish on stage five with a storming ride from the front on day six. Setting off as the third rider to enter the special, the two-time Dakar champion had caught the two riders ahead of him by kilometer 100. Riding in a group of three from there to the finish, Price was able to find a solid rhythm and navigate through the dunes without major issues. With his seventh-place result, Toby lost the very minimum of time to his rivals, completing the special less than four minutes down and in doing so takes the lead of the 2021 event.
Toby Price: “Today they cut about 100km out of the stage and that definitely helped us because it’s still been a really tough day out there. It took a while, but I managed to catch the two guys ahead of me and luckily we were able to keep up a really good pace right at the front. I did have one little get-off that twisted the road book tower a little bit but apart from that there were no problems. It feels great to have taken the overall lead, but after such an up and down week the most important thing is we’re fit and in good shape for the second half of the rally. The plan now is to enjoy the rest day and then hopefully more of the same next week.”
Claiming another top-five Dakar stage finish, Matthias Walkner rode a strong but calculated day six. Making the best use of his eighth-place start position, the experienced Austrian focused on both his pace and navigation to stay within five minutes of the leaders throughout the special. Ultimately completing the day as fifth-fastest, just three minutes down, Matthias is in good shape to attack the second week of the event.
Matthias Walkner: “It was a really nice stage today, but surprisingly fast. I pretty much rode my own race but was caught by Ross Branch at one point and his pace was really strong, so we rode together to the finish. Overall, I’m happy with my first week, it’s just frustrating that the issue I had on the second day has prevented any chances of fighting for the podium. All I can do now is keep pushing every day, get to the finish, and enjoy the race.”
Showing the sort of consistency that took him to the win at the 2017 Dakar Rally, Sam Sunderland delivered another solid performance today, finishing as ninth fastest to complete the first week of racing in sixth position in the general rankings. Trailing his teammate and overall event leader by just less than four and a half minutes, Sunderland will enjoy a strong start position for the dune-heavy stage seven and hopes to claw back valuable minutes on his favored terrain.
Sam Sunderland: “Another long day and it was really, really fast. I tried my hardest to catch up to the guys in front but their pace was quite high and so I ended up riding most of the stage on my own, concentrating on my road book and trying to ensure a safe finish before rest day. This first week has been good, I’ve been able to avoid the big yo-yo effect of leading out and then playing catch up by just staying consistent every day. It seems to have paid off too, because I’m in a good position overall and feel strong for next week.”
Continuing to both increase his cross-country rally knowledge and impress the event regulars, KTM Factory Racing’s Daniel Sanders has once again claimed a top-three stage finish at the 2021 Dakar. With the fast pace and open dunes much to his liking, the young Australian was able to confidently push right from the start of the special and increased his position throughout the 337km to claim third at the finish. Despite a seven-minute penalty incurred early on in the event, Sanders lies in an excellent 12th place in the provisional overall standings and leads the rookie class by close to one and a half hours.
Daniel Sanders: “It was definitely a physical one today that’s for sure, and on top of yesterday, it’s been a really tough couple of days. I tried my best to make up time today and think I did a good job, the stage started off quite tricky and then opened out to be really fast. This first week has gone well, I’ve certainly learned a lot too, and I’m happy with my pace. We’ve still got a long way to go, but I’ve been really enjoying myself.”
Saturday at the 2021 Dakar Rally is rest day. Competitors will remain in Ha’il and enjoy a day off from racing before resuming competition again on Sunday with the 737km stage seven.