KTM Factory Racing’s Daniel Sanders has delivered his best single stage performance of the 2021 Dakar Rally so far, placing an impressive third fastest on the high-speed special. Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Sam Sunderland, Toby Price and Matthias Walkner all enjoyed solid rides, safely completing the stage without mishap.
Stage four of the 2021 Dakar Rally, the longest of the event at 813km, was billed as being less demanding on navigation than the previous few days. Comprising a 337km timed special, book-ended by long liaison sections, the route ultimately led competitors into Riyadh, the capital of the country. With the majority of the day consisting of fast, wide-open tracks across the desert, riders’ focus and skill were tested to the maximum, with a safe stage finish a priority.
One rider who did push hard over the entirety of the special was KTM Factory Racing’s junior rider, Daniel Sanders. The 26-year-old rally rookie was the eighth rider to enter the stage following his strong performance on day three. Finding the high average speed special much to his liking, and feeling comfortable on his KTM 450 RALLY, Sanders was able to successfully chase down his rivals ahead and make up good time. With four strong stage results under his belt, in what is his debut Dakar Rally outing, Daniel goes into Thursday’s stage five provisionally lying 14th overall and as top rookie.
Daniel Sanders: “Today went really well, I didn’t have any issues for the first 100km or so and was able to close in on the front pack of riders. I had a strong middle section, I just kept pushing and was able to correct a couple of mistakes that the guys out front made, so that put me up on time a little. When we hit the dunes, I did have one big crash and got stuck on one too, luckily both myself and the bike came out fine. Towards the end I was able to push on again and apart from one little mistake things went really well. I’m really happy with third and thankfully it means I don’t have to lead out tomorrow either.”
Using his knowledge and experience to gauge the stage, Sam Sunderland rode the majority of today’s special alone. Minimizing any navigation mistakes, while maintaining a strong pace throughout the fast sections in between checkpoints, Sam completed the stage 10 minutes down on the eventual winner. Sitting seventh in the provisional overall standings, the Brit will enjoy an advantageous start position for Thursday’s stage five.
Sam Sunderland: “We had an idea that today’s stage was going to be fast and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Rather than push too hard and risk a big mistake, I chose to keep a steady rhythm and just aim to get to the finish in one piece. I’m happy with how the stage has gone and the bike, as ever, has been flawless. Stage five is looking quite a challenge, so we’ll see what tomorrow brings.”
Toby Price had the task of opening a second stage of the 2021 Dakar today following his win on Tuesday. Leading out and pushing from the start, Price was fastest to the checkpoint at kilometer 43. A couple of navigation errors however, made later through the special, unfortunately ended up costing him some valuable minutes. Completing the remainder of the day just outside the top 20, Toby thankfully didn’t lose too much extra time on the eventual stage winner, ultimately finishing 14 minutes down. In the general rankings, the Australian sits in eighth place, less than one minute behind teammate Sunderland.
Toby Price: “Yeah it wasn’t a bad stage for me – for sure it was a little easier than on previous days in terms of the navigation, but I managed to make a small mistake after the first checkpoint and was caught by the rider behind. After kilometer 80 we pretty much rode the rest of the stage together, trying to stay out of each other’s dust. I made a couple more small errors later on, which cost me a few minutes, but on the whole, it was a solid stage and I’m happy with the result.”
Still playing catch-up following the technical issue that arose on stage two, Matthias Walkner’s goal for the remainder of the event is to take each day as it comes and push for strong results. Third into today’s special, a mistake by the Austrian before the second checkpoint cost him over 10 minutes and dropped him to 47th place. From there, the 2018 Dakar winner kept his head down and focused on the remaining 250km, ultimately clawing his way back up the order to claim a commendable 23rd place at the finish.
Matthias Walkner: “It was quite a tough day today. In the morning I felt really good but close to the second checkpoint I made a very strange mistake, and it took a long time to get back on track. At the refueling I was disappointed to see that I was about 15 minutes down on the leader but after that, I rode together with Skyler Howes and we both pushed really hard to the end. I’m pleased with how I rode the second half of the stage, as my pace was really good, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Looking set to be another technically demanding stage for the riders, day five of the 2021 Dakar Rally covers a total of 662km, of which 456km are timed special. Made up of a variety of terrain, including stony tracks and a tough, dunes sector midway through the route, the stage will reward accurate navigation from the very start.
Provisional Results Stage Four – 2021 Dakar Rally
1. Joan Barreda (ESP), Honda, 2:46:50
2. Ross Branch (BWA), Yamaha, 2:52:47 +5:57
3. Daniel Sanders (AUS), KTM, 2:52:59 +6:09
4. Luciano Benavides (ARG), Husqvarna, 2:53:12 +6:22
5. Xavier de Soultrait (FRA), Husqvarna, 2:54:09 +7:19
12. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 2:57:23 +10:33
22. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 3:01:32 +14:42
23. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 3:03:32 +16:42
Provisional Standings (after stage four) – 2021 Dakar Rally
1. Xavier de Soultrait (FRA), Husqvarna, 15:00:25
2. Joan Barreda (ESP), Honda, 15:00:40 +0:15
3. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, 15:03:49 +3:24
4. Ross Branch (BWA), Yamaha, 15:04:49 +4:24
5. Skyler Howes (USA), KTM, 15:04:51 +4:26
7. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 15:07:38 +7:13
8. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 15:08:12 +7:47
14. Daniel Sanders (AUS), KTM, 15:14:33 +14:08
31. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 17:08:46 +2:08:21