THE 2017 DAKAR - Sam Sunderland leads three-way podium for KTM

Sam Sunderland and Matthias Walkner not only succeeded in taking the top two spots, but also to complete the rally for the first time. Both had retired injured in earlier editions.

Sunderland went into the final swift 64 km timed special with 33-minute advantage on his KTM 450 RALLY and the task of holding his nerve and getting the job done. He completed the stage in a comfortable sixth place and sacrificed only a couple of minutes. After almost 9,000 km through Paraguay, Bolivia and Argentina, he topped the overall timesheets with a total time of 32:06.22 hours.

It was also an excellent performance by Walkner, who exited in 2016 with a broken leg that kept him out of competition for much of the past season. He was under slightly more pressure on the run to the finish as he had two riders, Gerard Farres Guell and Adrien Van Beveren, the eventual stage winner, in hot pursuit. Walkner finished fourth in the stage and was 33 seconds off the leading time, which was enough to preserve his position.

Sunderland and Walkner stepped up and delivered for the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team after teammate and 2016 winner, Toby Price of Australia, went out in the fourth stage after crashing and breaking his leg in four places. After surgery in La Paz, the Australian desert champion has now returned to Australia with the aim of being back on his KTM 450 RALLY machine in four months.

Sunderland: “When I crossed the line my emotions really took over. I've had a lot of weight on my shoulders for the last six days. Now it feels incredible. I have to say thanks to my team, the bike has been great from start to finish. When Toby (Price) went out of the race it was a blow to the team as he’s a good friend. Because of the strong bonds we have in our team it helped us to pull together and strive to do something special. There’s a lot of fast guys that have the potential to win this race, I think cutting out the mistakes was the key to this win.”

Walkner: “This was a really rough Dakar so to arrive in Buenos Aires on the podium is an amazing feeling. I had a tough year last year, so to be here now is a dream come true. The hardest moment came on Stage 10 because there was the potential for my position to change on this day. I really studied the road book before the stage to hopefully get some advantage. That paid off for and it felt cool to get rewarded like this.”

Chris Glaspell

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