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‘Great week’ sees Sunderland hold lead at 2022 Dakar Rally half-way stage

Sam Sunderland leads at the half-way stage of the 2022 Dakar Rally putting him on track for his second - and GASGAS' first - win on the event 

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Sam Sunderland says he won’t be changing his approach heading into the second week of the 2022 Dakar Rally after opening out a comfortable lead by the half-way stage in Saudi Arabia.

The Briton - who won the event in 2017 when it was held in South America - has led since Stage 1B, despite a crash on SS4 that left him with a painful neck and shoulder.

Sunderland’s advantage of 2m 39secs over KTM’s Mathias Walkner comes despite having yet won a stage of the event, his approach of consistency in speed and navigation allowing him to maintain his advantage against occasionally quicker but more error-prone rivals.

Though there remains a significant portion of the event to go, including the longest stage of the event on SS8 at 830km, Sunderland says there is no need for him to change his tactics if he wants out-last his opponents.

“I’m happy to have reached the rest day safely and in the lead. It’s been a great first week besides my crash on stage four. My neck and shoulder were a little sore after that one but it’s been getting better day by day and it’s not effecting my riding too much. 

“I’m looking forward to the second week of racing. Everything to this point with my bike and navigation has been where it needs to be so the goal is for this to continue next week and then we should be somewhere handy next Friday.”

Sunderland’s performance means GASGAS is currently on course for what would be a historic triumph for the relatively minnow team.

Though the Spanish outfit has bulked in stature and support since being brought into the Pierer (KTM) family, should it win it would become only the fourth different manufacturer to win since 2000 (after BMW, KTM and Honda) and only the sixth different firm outright (including Yamaha and Cagiva