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Sam Sunderland clings on to win nail-biting 2022 Dakar Rally

Sam Sunderland resists the hard-charging Pablo Quintanilla to win the 2022 Dakar Rally; It is his second Dakar Rally win and a first for GASGAS

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Sam Sunderland has clinched his second-career Dakar Rally win after holding his nerve over a tense final stage to claim the spoils in Saudi Arabia.

Five years after becoming the first British rider to win the endurance classic when it was held in South America, Sunderland is only the ninth person to win the Dakar Rally on more than one occasion.

The success also marks the first-ever Dakar Rally win for GASGAS, which in turn becomes only the sixth different motorcycle manufacturer to taste victory after Yamaha, BMW, Honda, Cagiva and KTM. 

Sunderland came into the final 680km test as the rider to beat after bouncing back to the top of the timesheets during the penultimate SS11. However, despite a comfortable 6min 52secs lead over his nearest rival, in a second week rife with navigation challenges that kept the leaderboard fluid right up to the final stage, victory was far from assured.

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As it happens, his closest challenger Pablo Quintanilla did his utmost to unsettle Sunderland as he swept to the fastest time on the concluding SS12. However, Sunderland kept his cool to finish it eighth fastest, only 3m 25secs behind the Chilean, assuring his victory with a margin of 3mins 27secs.

One of the few riders to avoid serious trouble over the gruelling two-week event, Sunderland never strayed outside the top four after hitting the front on SS1B even if rivals were able to close on him during the latter stages. Nonetheless, despite winning only one stage all event, a crucial SS11 when he produced a 12mins swing to reclaim the lead ahead of the final day would prove pivotal.

In second place, Honda’s Quintanilla was left to wonder what might have been having launched a fine fightback from early delays that had him clawing back a 15mins deficit at one stage.

2018 Dakar Rally winner Mathias Walkner completed the podium for KTM, while Adrien Van Beveren - who led after SS10 but threw away victory on SS11 following a navigation disaster - made it four different manufacturers in the top four aboard the Yamaha.

Winners in 2020 and 2021 with Ricky Brabec and Kevin Benavides, Honda overcame a poor start to the event to end strongly with Joan Barreda Bort, Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo and Brabec backing Quintanilla up in fifth, sixth and seventh.

Yamaha’s Andrew Short, privateer KTM rider Mason Klein and KTM veteran Toby Price completed the top ten.