Sam Sunderland crowned 2019 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Champion following Round 3 of 4 in Chile as the KTM rider turns attentions to 2020 Dakar Rally
The Dorset-born, Dubai-based racer has established himself as one of the world’s foremost rally raid bikers in recent years, becoming the first Briton to secure victory on the Dakar Rally in 2017 across any class.
Teamed with the factory KTM rally raid team aboard the KTM 450 RALLY motorcycle, Sunderland’s title is his first Cross-Country Rallies after coming close with runs to the runners-up spot in in both 2015 and 2016.
“I’m so happy to win the world championship – I couldn’t have done it without my KTM team,” said Sunderland, who won the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge and Silk Rally to put the title out of his rivals’ reach with the final round in Morocco to go.
“I have to thank Toby [Price] as well for his help, as I bent my disc on the marathon stage and he was kind enough to swap, so that kept me in the chase.
“It was always in the back of my mind that I could take the title here in Chile, but I tried not to think about it too much as the race went on – I just tried to focus on getting through each day safely and in a good position.
“It’s been a really tough event here in Chile, as always, but it feels great to be standing here now as world champion.
“I have come so close in the past having finished as runner-up twice in 2015 and 2016, but this title makes all the hard work worth it.”
Sunderland success raises favourite status for Saudi Arabia-based 2020 Dakar Rally?
With one more round in Morocco to come, attention for Sunderland will ultimnately switch to the new-look 2020 Dakar Rally, which kicks off in Saudi Arabia for the first time on January 5.
The Dakar Rally ran between Europe and Africa until 2007 when security concerns ahead of the 2008 event saw it shifted to a new base in South America, where the event has found various homes including Peru, Argentina, Bolivia and Chile.
However, for 2020 the event will head to the Middle East, where Sunderland will take on another big field of two-wheel entrants on an all-new course that traverses Saudi Arabia. Set to be stay within Saudi borders, the event will run for 12 days, ending January 17.
KTM heads to the event seeking a 19th consecutive Dakar Rally victory having dominated the category since 2001. The last non-KTM winner came in 2000 on a BMW F650RR
“We are so proud of Sam for taking the 2019 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship,” Jordi Viladoms, KTM Factory team manager said. “As he said, he has come close to winning the title a number of times, so it’s a fantastic achievement for him to be world champion. Sam has ridden consistently well all season.
“We look forward to concluding the world championship with a strong race in Morocco with all of our KTM Factory Racing line-up, as we continue our preparations for the 2020 Dakar Rally.
Source: Visor Down