Sunderland takes lead as Price struggles on Day 2

Sam Sunderland

Sam Sunderland has moved into the lead of the Dakar Rally on a day in which Ross Branch became a stage winner but Toby Price struggled as the road leader.

Price had taken a five-second lead into the second day, which took the field from Al Wajh to Neom on the first of the Super Marathon stages, but dropped over seven minutes to the then-stage leader by the time he had reached the first waypoint, 52km in.

The Red Bull KTM rider continued to lose ground such that he was 12:13s off the day’s best pace by the time he reached the end of the stage, and is now ninth in the general classification with a 7:34s deficit to team-mate Sunderland.

“I made a little navigation mistake at 60km and Ricky (Brabec), who was behind me, did the same thing,” explained Price.

“There’s been some changes to the roadbook that we’re all having to wrap our heads around quick.”

Writing later on social media, he added, “Starting first is always going to be a disadvantage and today was a day I knew the rest of the field would make time on me.

“I don’t plan on starting first too many more times after my efforts today but I’m feeling good, the bike is in good shape for tomorrow and I’m looking forward to Stage 3.”

Sunderland trailed Branch by 1:24s on the day but now enjoys a 1:18s lead over Pablo Quintanilla (Rockstar Energy Husqvarna) in the general classification.

The Briton trailed Branch by 3:14s at the penultimate waypoint of the day, at which point he was also 2:21s behind Quintanilla, but found time on both of them in the final 53km of competitive running.

“It’s the Super Marathon stage, so we have to try and take care of the bike the best we can,” said Sunderland.

“It was a really difficult day, really long with big variations in terrain and navigation, from high speed to really slow and technical, in and out of the canyons with a lot of tracks that were less visible.

“All in all, it was a good day and I’m just trying to keep a steady rhythm, to keep building throughout the race.

“It’s not so easy when you’re in the dust because you have to pay so much attention to the tracks in front of you, to not lose the way and try to miss any rocks… It’s really difficult, really difficult so far.”

Branch sat second at each of the first three waypoints before moving into top spot by the end of Kilometre 214, where he remained for the next 153km, and is now sixth overall.

“Starting 14th this morning helped a lot because there were some tracks that opened the road,” said the Botswanan, who rides a KTM for the BAS Dakar team.

“I had a lot of fun and tried to ride my own race. I navigated well today which was really good for me and I think it helped a lot.”

Behind Sunderland and Quintanilla in the general classification is Kevin Benavides (Monster Energy Honda) by another 14 seconds, from Matthias Walkner (Red Bull KTM), Ricky Brabec (Monster Energy Honda), Branch, and Luciano Benavides (Red Bull KTM).

Joan Barreda Bort is eighth overall having led the stage prior to Branch, before a fall on his Monster Energy Honda and then a navigation error.

Stage 3 is a loop around Neom with 427km of competitive running.

General classification: Bikes (Top 10)

Pos Rider Nat Make Time/Gap
1 Sam Sunderland GBR KTM 07:05:22
2 Pablo Quintanilla CHI Husqvarna +0:01:18
3 Kevin Benavides ARG Honda +0:01:32
4 Matthias Walkner AUT KTM +0:02:00
5 Ricky Brabec USA Honda +0:04:11
6 Ross Branch BOT KTM +0:04:19
7 Luciano Benavides ARG KTM +0:06:01
8 Joan Barreda Bort ESP Honda +0:06:09
9 Toby Price AUS KTM +0:07:34
10 Andrew Short USA Husqvarna +0:09:24

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