By: Jamie Klein
KTM rider Sam Sunderland has won the bikes category of the 2017 Dakar Rally, becoming the first Briton to take overall honours in any class of the legendary event.Sunderland, taking part in his fourth Dakar, took charge of the event on the fifth stage, his chances boosted by the two pre-event favourites, Honda’s Joan Barreda and KTM’s Toby Price, both falling out of contention.
Defending champion Price was forced to retire on stage four after breaking his femur in a crash, while a one-hour penalty for all the factory Honda riders for illegal refuelling put then-leader Barreda well down the order.
Victory on the fifth stage gave Sunderland a lead of 12 minutes, and from there it was simply a case of nurturing the gap for the Dubai-based Brit.
His nearest challenger Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) was forced to retire after Stage 10, after which Sunderland could boast a lead of half an hour over KTM teammate Matthias Walkner.
And Sunderland duly completed the final 64km Rio Cuarto test on Saturday to seal honours by a final margin of 32 minutes over Walkner – giving KTM its 16th successive Dakar victory.
While Sunderland’s victory remains provisional until Honda’s appeal over its penalties has been processed, it’s understood the chances of the result being altered are extremely slim.
Dead heat in final stage
Behind the top two, the battle was on between KTM privateer Gerard Farres and top Yamaha rider Adrian van Beveren for the final step on the podium.
A one-minute speeding penalty for van Beveren dropped the Frenchman from third to fourth overnight, requiring him to make up 48 seconds over the final test to wrest back the place.
However, Farres and van Beveren finished the stage in a dead heat as joint winners, ensuring an all-KTM podium.
Barreda completed the top five overall, 43 minutes behind Sunderland and nine minutes ahead of Honda teammate Goncalves in sixth place.
Pela Renet (Husqvarna), top rookie Franco Caimi (Honda), Helder Rodrigues (Yamaha) and another rookie, Joaquim Rodrigues (Hero), rounded out the final top 10.
Final bikes standings (top 10):
|4||Adrian van Beveren||Yamaha||+36m28s|