Brit Sam Sunderland won the first stage of his young Dakar Rally career today, the 24 year old riding his factory HRC Rally Honda to victory in the second stage of the event after finishing ninth in yesterday’s opening stage.
Sunderland beat Red Bull KTM’s Francisco Lopez by 39 seconds in today’s stage that took the riders from San Luis to San Rafael, the Chilean having ended day one in sixth place.
Third today went to yesterday’s stage winner Joan Barreda, the factory Honda rider ending up two minutes behind his teammate Sunderland, but over two minutes ahead of Red Bull KTM’s Ruben Faria.
The two men who went into the event as the favorites for victory ended up ninth and 10th today with Red Bull KTM’s Marc Coma some 45 seconds ahead of his rival, defending race champion Cyril Despres on the factory Yamaha.
Barreda continues to lead the overall standings, the Spaniard two minutes and three seconds ahead of Lopez and two minutes and 33 seconds clear of Sunderland.
Sherco’s Alain Duclos is fourth overall after finishing fifth in today’s stage. Coma is fifth with Despres eighth, the pair seven minutes and eight minutes and 23 seconds behind, respectively.
For Sunderland, the victory today was especially sweet since he was forced to pull out of last year’s Dakar after fracturing both wrist a month prior to the start of the race. Sunderland, who resides in Qatar, took the lead early in today’s stage and opened that advantage once the stage hit the sand dunes. The victory for Sunderland came in just his fourth day of racing in the event as he was forced to pull out of the race after just three stages in his debut in 2012.