An Englishman takes the coveted Motorbike title
The 44th Dakar Rally Raid drew to a close on Friday, with England’s Sam Sunderland taking the coveted Motorbike title in dramatic fashion in one of the most hotly contested races in recent memory. Sunderland finished third last year behind (then) Honda riders Kevin Benavides and 2020 champ Ricky Brabec, but snagged the 2022 title from the jaws of defeat in the final day of the grueling cross-Arabian race. The 3 min 27 sec lead that Sunderland finished ahead of Chilean Pablo Quintanilla (Honda) at the finish back in Jeddah was the slimmest margin at the top of the leader board since the 1994 races. Sunderland finished eighth in the final stage, which was enough combined with his accrued points across the total 12-stage race to take the Dakar 2022 title. It was a sweet victory for the Brit biker, as his last win at Dakar was claimed in 2017, and this win was a first for his new team GASGAS and the KTM Group in the Saudi Arabia-held race.
Dakar 2022 Motorbike champ Sam Sunderland hoisted aloft by 2nd and 3rd place winners Pablo Quintanilla (left) and Matthias Walkner (right).
“Wow, what a feeling!” Sunderland exclaimed at the end of the 12-day race. “That 10 minute period waiting at the end of the final stage to see if I’d won felt like a lifetime. But this feeling, knowing I’ve won a second Dakar, will stay in my memory forever. This win feels better than the first as this victory was anything but easy. The times were so close this year and there was no time to let off the gas. It was a really close race, right to the end. All of the hard work, the sacrifices, and everything that the GASGAS team has done for me make it all worthwhile. It’s been five years since my first Dakar win, and it’s been a long time to wait! I’m super happy to get another win and claim the first one for GASGAS.”
Ignacio Cornejo at the opening ceremony, and the vast vistas of the Saudi Arabian desert that the racers crossed.
With Quintanilla taking 2nd overall, Red Bull KTM’s Matthias Walkner, the 2018 Dakar winner, rounded out the podium. Sunderland’s bro-in-law Adrien van Beveren (Yamaha), Joan Barreda (Honda) and Jose Ignacio Conejo (Honda) completed the top six. American Ricky Brabec (Honda) staged a hard-fought comeback in the closing stages after a rough opening week to finish seventh overall, while fellow countryman and Dakar rookie Mason Klein (KTM) impressed with a ninth place finish overall. Two-time Dakar champ Toby Price (KTM) of Australia rounded out the top ten.
Ricky Brabec, Giuseppe Winkler and Mason Klein in the early stages of the rally.
Sam Sunderland completed the 2022 Dakar Rally Raid in a total racing time of 38 hours, 47 mins, and 30 seconds, across the punishing landscapes of the Saudi Arabian peninsula. The race comprised over 4600 miles in 13 days and 12 stages circumnavigating the peninsula, with one day set aside for rest and repairs. The third race to be hosted by Saudi Arabia, the 2022 Dakar Rally launched out from the Red Sea coastal city of Jeddah, and ultimately concluded there. The barren, desolate, rugged terrain of the peninsula is among the most unforgiving, unbearable places on earth, which makes this race among the most legendary in the world of motorsports.
Sam Sunderland, 2021 winner Kevin Benavides, and the open, desolate scapes the race rolls through.
So congrats to Sam Sunderland for his epic Dakar Rally win, as well as Pablo Quintanilla and Matthias Walkner. And a big shout-out to Americans Ricky Brabec and Mason Klein for their impressive top ten finishes. We are quite proud of you both.
For more on the 2022 Dakar Rally Raid, with photos, highlight videos, and results in all the race categories, click here without ever leaving this page-
*All photos by Dakar Rally ASO/DPPI
Patricio Cabrera at the start of stage 11, two riders in the dunes, and the barren wastelands the rally traverses. All photos by Dakar Rally ASO/DPPI