Dakar stage 1: Sunderland wins opening stage

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Factory KTM rider Sam Sunderland has won the opening stage of the 2015 Dakar. The 25 year old Brit secured his second stage win of his Dakar career, underlining his potential as a true Dakar contender in the 2015 event.

The Dubai based Brit averaged over 80mph over the fast 175km timed special stage to win ahead of official Honda rider Paolo Goncalves and KTM team-mate marc Coma.

Sunderland said: “It’s difficult to judge your strategy based on the first day because you still don’t know who’s pulled out all the stops. It’s also important not to go all in, you’ve got to leave something for the other stages. However I think I had a good special and that’s always a reason to be happy. The bike didn’t miss a beat, it was very fast and I posted a good time. I’m a contender, but it’s only the first day. I hope I’m also a contender at the end. So far we’ve only raced for 175km and there’s still a long road ahead of us.”

Goncalves finished just 5 seconds behind Sunderland with Coma 1m 12s off Sunderland’s stage winning time.

Goncalves said: “If I’d known I was running second, just a few seconds behind Sunderland, I would have probably pushed a bit harder to try and win the first special. But it’s no big deal and I’m very happy with second.  We’ve got a long stage coming tomorrow and we’ll be racing up front. For me it’s important to stay on my bike and avoid the problems that plagued me in previous years.

“I really want to help Honda win the Dakar. They’ve worked their socks off to put this amazing bike together and I hope I can give something back to them by doing my bit for a Dakar victory.”

Four time Dakar winner, Coma was happy with his performance and clearly enjoyed the fast opening stage of the race. On completion of the day which included the 175km special and long 663km liaison, he said: “I feel good. It was quite an easy, fast stage. In fact it was very fast and avoiding mistakes was obviously very important. The start of Dakar is always a risky business because you want to push hard and open up a gap.”

Father and son pairing Llewelyn and Simon Pavey ended the opening stage in 84th and 85th places respectively on the their SP Fiftyone KTM’s with privateer Brit Chris Cork completing his first ever Dakar stage in 150th.

160 of the 161 starters finished the opening day.

Stage 2 of the Dakar will see the bike class leave Villa Carlos Paz and head to San Juan. The days route is made up of a 107km liaison followed by a tough 518km timed special. The stage represents the true start to Dakar and will be a serious test for factory riders and privateers alike.

Results – stage 1
1, Sam Sunderland, GBR, KTM, 1 hour 18.57
2, Paolo Goncalves, POR, Honda at 00.05
3, Marc Coma, ESP, KTM at 1.12
4, Joan Barreda, ESP, Honda at 1.41
5, Alain Duclos, FRA, Sherco at 2:08
6, Jeremias Israel Esquerre, CHI, Honda at 2.16
7, David Casteu, FRA, KTM, at 2.36
8, Matthias Walkner, AUT, KTM, at 2.42
9, Pablo Quintanilla, CHI, KTM at 2.58
10, Ruben Faria, POR, KTM, at 3:02

84th Llewelyn Pavey, AUS, KTM at 22.04
85th Simon Pavey, AUS, KTM at 22.10
150th Chris Cork, UK, Husqvarna at 48.07

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Michael Guy

By Michael Guy

Sports Editor, former 250-racer and adventure rider