Sam Sunderland, the reconquest of a pioneer

January 14, 2022

Sam Sunderland (KTM), champion this Friday in the motorcycle category at the Dakar-2022, already knew what it was like to succeed in this emblematic event, since he won the 2017 edition in South America, then becoming the first Briton to win the prestigious rally.

He came close to repeating in 2019 but finished third behind teammates Toby Price and Matthias Walkner. In 2021 he was also third, behind Kevin Benavides and Ricky Brabec.

This January, the 32-year-old motorcycle racer began a new adventure, after six editions disputed within the Red Bull KTM team. He joined the official Team GasGas team and the Australian Daniel Sanders, who started this Dakar-2022 very strong, with three victories in the first six stages.

Sunderland’s new bet has been successful, although it has had to wait for the second week of this Dakar to prove it.

In the Sunderlands, the motorcycle is a family story, since Sam started riding at the age of seven, after receiving a small motorcycle as a Christmas present.

It was the first step in his career, which later took him to motocross competitions in the UK and abroad.

– Accustomed to the desert –

At the age of 16, a serious accident during training kept him away from motorcycles for a year, which could have put an end to his emerging professional career. It was during a visit to his uncles in Dubai that Sam fell in love with desert piloting, ‘surfing’ dunes.

He was 19 years old and settled in the United Arab Emirates, working in a KTM shop. He burst onto the adventure rally scene at the 2011 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, winning two stages as an amateur. He made his Dakar debut in 2012.

He turned professional with Honda and then Sunderland joined KTM in 2014. His first Dakar title came in 2017, in Argentina.

On a personal level, he became a father for the first time in 2020 and describes his fatherhood as “a marathon stage every day of the week”.

The arrival of his daughter did not stop his instinct for adventure and competition, although 2021 was not very propitious for him: he suffered a major accident at the Rally of Kazakhstan and had to withdraw from the Rally of Morocco due to illness.

But he did not give up, he managed to re-motivate himself to prepare well for the Dakar and this Friday he was proclaimed motorcycle champion in that event for the second time. This time in Jedá, very far from Buenos Aires, where he was crowned for the first time five years ago.

He is also the brother-in-law of the French rider Adrien Van Beveren, who was the leader of the motorcycle general classification at the end of the tenth stage.

water / dr / iga