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First stage win puts Sam Sunderland back in charge of 2022 Dakar Rally

Sam Sunderland scores a crucial first stage win of the 2022 Dakar Rally on the longest test of the event so far to bounce back from fourth to first

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Sam Sunderland has re-established his advantage on the 2022 Dakar Rally after scoring his first stage win on the longest test of the event.

The GASGAS rider had led the Dakar Rally from Stage 1B all the way to the half-way rest day stage but rain during the break meant he greatly suffered as first on the road during SS7 after many of the tracks for navigation had washed away.

Though the issue affected many of the leading runners, Sunderland’s 28th fastest time on SS7 promoted him to plummet down to fourth in the rankings.

However, the Briton enjoyed a reversal of fortunes on the 830km SS8 as he swept to victory, his first of the event.

With erstwhile leader Adrien Van Beveren finishing down the order, Sunderland bridged the five minute gap to the front to return to the top of the timesheets, adding a 3m 45secs margin to new second place man Mathias Walkner on the KTM.

Van Beveren, meanwhile, has now slipped to third position on the Yamaha, while Pablo Quintanilla is making an impressive late play for Dakar glory in fourth place on the Honda. The Chilean was 16mins off the lead during the early stages, but has reduced this to 5mins 30secs. 

With four stages remaining, it would appear victory is set to come from the aforementioned four riders with fifth place man Joan Barreda Bort almost 15mins behind on the Honda.

GASGAS’ hopes now lie with Sunderland after Daniel Sanders was forced to retire while poised in third position. The Aussie suffered a fractured elbow and wrist on SS7, ending his hopes of mounting a challenge for his first Dakar Rally win.

GASGAS is in the hunt for what would be its first Dakar Rally success, which in turn would make it only the sixth different manufacturer to win in the event’s history since 1978 after Honda, KTM, BMW, Yamaha and Cagiva.

Ex-MotoGP rider Danilo Petrucci was 25th quickest on SS8 as he continues his Dakar initiation. The Italian can’t be classified after officially retiring on SS2 but has starred since rejoining with penalties, including claiming a historic stage win on SS4.

He has however eased off on the pace after a painful fall on SS6, a stage he says shouldn’t have gone ahead due to poor weather conditions.