Red Bull KTM Factory riders and supported riders opened their bid for Dakar glory on Sunday in a relatively short first stage that saw the team’s Sam Sunderland take line honors.
The young British rider who is based in Dubai finished the 175 km special in one hour 18.57, leading in 22 riders who all finished within a six-minute margin. Portugal’s Paolo Goncalves was right with Sunderland, finishing only 00.05 behind and master tactician and four-time Dakar winner Marc Coma a Red Bull athlete was a comfortable third at just 1.12.
Sunderland, a young rider with great potential was signed to the KTM Factory Team early in 2014 was pleased, but also realistic about his Stage One win.
“It’s difficult to judge your strategy based on the first day because you still don’t know who’s pulled out all the stops. It’s also important not to go all in, you’ve got to leave something for the other stages… However, I think I had a good special and that’s always a reason to be happy. The bike didn’t miss a beat, it was very fast and I probably posted a good time. I’m a contender… for the first day. I hope I’m also a contender at the end, but we’ve only covered 175 kilometers and there’s still a long road before us,” he said after the stage. Sunderland is correct – 175 km in the bank and 4577 km of tough timed specials to the finish line.
KTM-supported rider Matthias Walkner, making his Dakar debut also had a confidence-building first day out finishing in eighth place, the third just two minutes 42 behind Sunderland. Walkner, an MX3 World champion but new to rally-raid is the first Austrian to ride in the Dakar since Heinz Kinigadner in the early 1990s following a world championship-winning career in motocross.
Factory rider Ruben Faria finished tenth, followed by KTM Australia’s Toby Price, also making his Dakar debut and the factory’s Jordi Viladoms, who was second last year to Coma was fourteenth, just 3.45 off the winning pace.
Factory Team Manager Alex Doringer said it had been a smooth and very fast stage with riders averaging around 130 kph. “It was a good pace and a good backup. So far everything is going smoothly. while Monday is a longer and more difficult day, he said he was pleased to have a strong start from the team and especially from the younger riders Sutherland, Walkner and Price.
While Sunday was a taste of things to come, the rally in fact gets serious on Monday when Stage Two from Villa Carlos Paz to San Juan has a relatively short liaison of 107 km liaison and a timed special of 518 km.
Buenos Aires to Villa Carlos Paz – 663 km liaison, 175 km special (838 km)
1, Sam Sunderland, GBR, KTM, 1 hour 18.57
2, Paolo Goncalves, POR, Honda at 00.05
3, Marc Coma, ESP, KTM at 1.12
4, Joan Barreda, ESP, Honda at 1.41
5, Alain Duclos, FRA, Sherco at 2:08
6, Jeremias Israel Esquerre, CHI, Honda at 2.16
7, David Casteu, FRA, KTM, at 2.36
8, Matthias Walkner, AUT, KTM, at 2.42
9, Pablo Quintanilla, CHI, KTM at 2.58
10, Ruben Faria, POR, KTM, at 3:02
11, Toby Price, AUS, KTM at 3.31
14, Jordi Viladoms, ESP, KTM, at 3.45
22, Riaan van Niekerk, RSA, KTM, at 5.54
31, Jakub Przygonski, POL, KTM 7.53
Photographer: KTM – RallyZone Bauer/Barni