Sanders hits out at Dakar rivals who ‘complained and complained’ to get Stage 6 shortened

Daniel Sanders

Australian Daniel Sanders has hit out at his Dakar Rally rivals for successfully lobbying to have the latest special stage shortened due to a rough track.

The GasGas Factory Racing rider won Stage 6, the last before the rest day, but was deprived of the opportunity to really hammer home his advantage when the special was called more than 300km early.

In a new initiative at this year’s Dakar, the Bikes field was sent out on the route which the Cars and Trucks had taken around Riyadh the day before, and vice versa.

While that was fine for the four-wheelers, those on two wheels found a track which had been significantly chewed up, a problem said to have been exacerbated by overnight rain.

Ultimately, the Bikes stage did not progress beyond the first neutralisation, at Kilometre 101, leaving Sanders less than pleased.

“For me, there was no problem with the terrain,” he declared.

“We’ve done many races like this and Morocco was the same.

“Unfortunately, a lot of riders complained. They rang the officials and complained and complained, and then they called it.

“I was ready to start, I was all fired up, [and] the riders knew what we were in for; we knew at the start of the day that it was going to be crazy.

“Unfortunately, some people got the upper hand on the situation and I got the short end of the stick. It was a little bit disappointing with the decision [that was made].”

Sanders’ comments stand in contrast to several of the other front-runners, including his own GasGas team-mate, Sam Sunderland.

The Briton, who leads the rally overall, said, “Ahead of today there were quite a few riders concerned about how the stage would be after the trucks had raced it yesterday, and it was unbelievable out there.

“[There were] So many rocks and square edges where trucks spin up the dirt and leave the rocks behind, so on a bike, you’re basically coming up to half-metre high walls of rock everywhere.

“You then start going offline to find smooth lines but then your roadbook isn’t quite right as you’ve ridden away from the correct line.

“For me, it was the right decision for it to be shortened today and I’m happy to reach the halfway point still in the lead.”

Fellow Dakar champion Toby Price had much the same opinion, the Red Bull KTM rider noting, “a lot of the dangers were worse than listed on the roadbook and there were a few extra hazards out there too.”

Toby Price

Another to have won the Dakar, Monster Energy Honda’s Ricky Brabec, opined, “The day was strange.

“The organisation is trying to do different things with different ideas – I understand that – but I don’t agree with what they did today, which was yesterday to start where the cars passed yesterday; this is not normal.

“It’s a big safety issue. We’re holding a lot of fuel. They are big and heavy. It’s dangerous out there.

“A couple of riders have fallen hard. This shouldn’t be part of the rally.

“The cars and tyres are getting bigger and they are creating bigger ruts. It’s more dangerous.”

According to Monster Energy Yamaha’s Adrien Van Beveren, the roadbook was somewhat redundant given what the Cars and Trucks had done to the course.

“The roadbook is written in such a way as to indicate the dangers on the route, but the route had completely disappeared,” he explained.

“It was 300 metres wide after the cars and trucks drove on it yesterday.

“The dangers indicated aren’t sometimes there because you are 100 metres to one side or the other.”

Ricky Brabec. Picture: ASO/Charly Lopez

The ASO, the organisation which runs the Dakar Rally, described the route as “impassable”.

“The deterioration of the track due to the passage of cars and trucks yesterday, combined with recent torrential rains, has made the route impassable,” read their announcement.

Sanders is only contesting his second Dakar Rally, although he can lay claim to being an Australian Off Road Champion.

Despite what Price, Sunderland, Brabec, and others had to say, the Victorian claimed the stage was “easy and basic”.

“We had to ride the course from the cars and trucks and stuff from yesterday, so the track was already worn in and you could see where you were going,” he said.

“There was a lot of open dirt and ground, so it was really easy to navigate through here.

“We got to the refuelling and a lot of riders complained about how rough [it was] and saying how dangerous it was with the rocks and stuff.

“For me, it was pretty easy and basic and I just rode at my own rhythm and was really comfortable with the terrain and the situation.

“I got unlucky; they cut the stage short, and I didn’t get to make up too much time, but my bike’s handling the best ever and I got to show everyone out there that this GasGas is on fire and she’s going to be strong for the next week.”

Sanders moved up to third overall with his Stage 6 victory, 5:35s behind Sunderland.

Stage 7 takes place on Sunday (local time).

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