2022 Dakar Champion carries winning momentum into round two of world championship with strong performance on opening day
UAE-based Dakar Champion Sam Sunderland got his 2022 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge off to
a strong start, going fastest on the opening stage, taking the sandy tracks and rolling dunes
in his stride.
“We’re back to it – not that long after Dakar. It’s always cool to come here to Abu Dhabi,
the race is always good, and I like to ride in the dunes,” said Sunderland. “The plan after yesterday’s prologue was to push on today’s stage, which I managed to do. I didn’t gain
back quite as much time as I would have liked, and I’m leading out tomorrow, so hopefully I
can do a good job with the navigation. The bike is working great and I’m looking forward to
After yesterday’s short 2km prologue sorted the start order for the opening stage, Sam
Sunderland was the 28th rider to enter the first 262km special. Playing catch-up and aiming
to close in on the riders ahead of him, the Brit pushed hard right from the start line, navigating well through the mixture of dunes and faster tracks.
Up to second-fastest by the first checkpoint, the reigning Dakar Champion didn’t ease off,
fighting for the lead throughout the remainder of the stage. Bringing his GASGAS RC 450F
safely to the finish in three hours and 18 minutes was enough for Sunderland to clinch the
stage win by just over two minutes. The result places him fourth overall, just under one-
minute down on the provisional rally leader.
Sam will lead out the 453km stage two, which is not only the longest of the event, but also
makes up the first leg of this year’s marathon stage – no outside assistance will be allowed
to the riders when they reach the bivouac in Hameem.
2022 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge – Stage 1 Provisional Classification
- Sam Sunderland (GASGAS) 3:18:32
- Pablo Quintanilla (Honda) 3:20:34
- Kevin Benavides (KTM) 3:20:43
2022 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge – Provisional Overall Classification [After Stage 1]
- Michael Docherty (Husqvarna) 3:41:02
- Matthias Walkner (KTM) 3:41:25
- Kevin Benavides (KTM) 3:41:39
- Sam Sunderland (GASGAS) 3:42:00
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