Top rookie Sanders hails ‘pretty perfect’ Dakar debut

Daniel Sanders

Australian Daniel Sanders says he’s over the moon to have claimed top rookie honours and finish fourth overall in this year’s Dakar Rally.

Sanders finished the final stage in the gruelling off-road endurance unscathed and with the fifth fastest time, ending the event 38 minutes adrift of eventual winner Kevin Benavides.

It was a Monster Energy Honda Team one-two at the end of the rally, with Ricky Brabec of the USA trailing Argentina’s Benavides by four minutes at the event’s end.

Sam Sunderland of Great Britain completed the podium for the Red Bull KTM Factory Team with Sanders fourth.

“All-in-all it’s been a pretty perfect first Dakar for me,” said Sanders, who started the event with the third fastest time in Prologue.

“It started off with a good Prologue and then day-by-day I learned a little more and gained as much experience as possible. I’m really pleased to come away with fourth overall and as first rookie, so that’s cool.

“I’ve only really spent four months on the KTM rally bike, learning as much as I can for this, so I can’t thank Jordi [Viladoms] and the whole team enough for all the hard work they have done and the faith they put in me.

“It’s pretty much what I expected as I came into the race ready for it to be really tough. The first few days weren’t so bad – yeah, the navigation was tricky, but it wasn’t till about day five or six that we had some hugely physical stages in the dunes.

“That, and after a couple of crashes, my body really started to hurt. It’s all been worth it though, I’m over the moon with my result and glad I’ve been able to gather all the information together and come away with a strong finish.

“It’s been the toughest race I’ve ever done, but I’m already looking forward to the next one.”

Fellow KTM rides Sunderland said he couldn’t be disappointed in his result, but lamented getting lost on the final day.

Sunderland was 11th in the final stage of the rally, dropping to third overall.

“It was always going to be hard setting off first this morning and I knew I had to push hard to make up those minutes,” he explained.

“I couldn’t find one waypoint early on in the dunes and lost far too much time trying to find it. There is always a fine balance and when you push your speed, the navigation can lose out.

“I’m super happy as I know I gave it my all. The other guys did a great job and after what was such a tough event with several crashes and people being forced to retire with technical issues, I’m glad to be here safe at the finish line and in third place.

“I honestly think that has been one of the toughest races I have ever done – the pace at the top is so high, we’re having to fight every single day and there is no time to relax.

“Congratulations to all those who finished and get well soon to those who crashed out.”

Australia’s Michael Burgess (BAS Dakar KTM) finished his maiden Dakar Rally in 27th while Andre Houlihan (Nomadas Adventure) was 50th.

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