Sam Sunderland has extended his lead in the 2017 Dakar Rally after making the most of a tricky day on the road from La Paz to Uyuni. Initially looking in trouble after losing his way on the 161km timed stage, errors for his opposition meant that not only did he maintain his overall lead, he extended it to 17 minutes over Paulo Quintanilla.
The stage was a new creation after heavy rain saw Saturday’s planned one cancelled and race organisers were forced to cobble together a new one using the plans for both Saturday and today to create a tricky day of navigation challenges through the sand dunes.
But despite the challenges, the Brit came out of it strong, beaten on the stage itself by the Monster Energy Honda duo of Ricky Brabec and Paulo Gonçalves, already all but out of contention for the overall prize after they and teammate Joan Barreda were handed hour-long penalties for illegal refuelling.
Further down the field, malle moto contender Lyndon Poskitt was again the first of the non-factory Brits home in 50th, with Max Hunt 61st, David Watson 98th and Kurt Burroughs 107th. Poskitt remains the fastest of them overall in 44th, as he battles for a podium finish in the unsupported class.
Tomorrow sees the first of two marathon stages, with over half of the day’s 892km of travel part of the timed stage, followed by a further 400km of racing the following day, in a series of stages that may well see the race decided.
Top 10 overall after Stage 7:
- Sam Sunderland (KTM), 17h 28m 53s
- Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna), +00h 17m 45s
- Adrien van Beveren (Yamaha), +00h 22m 16s
- Gerard Farres (KTM), +00h 28m 36s
- Matthias Walkner (KTM), +00h 34m 17s
- Xavier de Soultrait (Yamaha), +00h 38m 33s
- Pierre-Alexandre Renet (Husqvarna), +01h 02m 37s
- Paulo Gonçalves (Honda), +01h 05m 22s
- Joan Barreda (Honda), +01h 14m 47s
- Diego Duplessis (KTM), +01h 15m 36s