The first Dakar victory of British biker Sam Sunderland (KTM Factory Team-Michelin) notched up Michelin’s 34th success on the famous cross-country rally.
The menu of the 2017 Dakar Rally featured a route of some 9,000 kilometres from Asuncion, Paraguay, to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Almost half that distance was against the clock and included a marathon leg, the usual cocktail of dunes, dust, rocky ground and mud, plus altitudes of more than 4,000 metres. Appalling weather led to the cancellation of two competitive sections.
Sunderland had never previously completed the rally, but this time he kept his cool to become the first ever Briton to take the win. The KTM -Michelin rider climbed from fourth overall in Resistancia, to third in San Miguel de Tucuman, then second in San Salvador de Jujuy before eventually taking control after Leg 5 as the field arrived in Oruro, Bolivia. In sparkling form over the region’s Altiplano, he also showed a level of consistency that even his most experienced rivals were unable to match. Sunderland’s victory is the latest in a long list for KTM-Michelin which has dominated the event since 2001.
Last year’s victor Toby Price (KTM-Michelin) was side-lined after suffering a femur fracture on Day 4’s run from San Salvador to Tupiza. The same leg saw all the factory Honda-Michelin take a one-hour penalty for refuelling during the short break at the Argentine/Bolivian border. After that, Sunderland was able to manage his lead thanks to some skilled navigation and by staying out of trouble over the event’s more hazardous sections.
Matthias Walkner (KTM-Michelin) reached the finish for the first time at his third attempt to secure second place, while Gérard Farres (KTM-Michelin) made it an all-KTM-Michelin top three. But only just, since Adrien Van Beveren (Yamaha) finished a mere 48 seconds short of the podium!