Dakar Rally 2020: Sam Sunderland storms into Dakar lead

KTM's Sam Sunderland pushes into the lead of the 2020 Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia following the second stage through the desert

Sam Sunderland - KTM Factory

British rider Sam Sunderland has moved into the lead of the 2020 Dakar Rally following the second stage of 12 in Saudi Arabia.

The Red Bull KTM Factory rider was running fifth after the event’s opening test as Saudi Arabia officially inaugurated its first ever running of the rally raid classic, but the second quickest time on the next stage Al-Wejh to Neom elevated him into the lead.

After Stage 1’s gruelling 752km start, Stage 2 was run over a more modest 393km but that didn’t stop it from being a challenge, with a number of riders – stymied by new regulations that mean they don’t receive their maps until short notice – struggling with navigation.

“It was a really tough day today and it felt very long,” Sunderland said. “There was a huge mix of terrain with high speed tracks and then slower technical sections. In and out of the canyons there were a lot of lines visible and that made navigation more of a challenge.

“I made a couple of mistakes, but I think everyone did out there today. All-in-all though I had a good run, just trying to stick to a steady rhythm and build up my pace as the race goes on.”

Though he was 1min 24secs slower than stage winner Ross Branch from Botswana on a privateer KTM, Sunderland rose to head of the overall leaderboard by 1m 18secs over Pablo Quintanilla on the leading Husqvarna, followed by Honda’s Kevin Benavides.

Erstwhile leader Toby Price, who led after Stage 1, slid down to ninth after losing nearly ten minutes by preserving his KTM in an attempt to push on through Tuesday’s 504km stage.

“Today was always going to be tough, leading out from the start without having had much time to read the road book. The stage went ok, I lost some time to the others but the most important thing is I looked after my bike and the tyres so should be in good shape to close down on the leaders again tomorrow. There’s still a long, long way to go, but the bike is working great, things are looking good and I’m happy.”