It’s almost time for Dakar! And Red Bull GASGAS Factory Racing’s Sam Sunderland and Daniel Sanders are both excited to be taking on the world’s toughest rally-raid.
The superfast duo are certainly no strangers to the prestigious event, as Sam’s a two-time winner and Daniel narrowly missed out on the overall podium in his first-ever Dakar back in 2021. Following what’s been a challenging 2023 season for both riders, they’re fired up for another run at the world’s most punishing rally.
Looking to make a positive start to 2024, Sunderland and Sanders are eager to take on the challenge of the Dakar Rally. In recent weeks, the duo have been testing with the team in America in preparation for the 46th edition of the race, and with their bike set-ups dialed in, they’re now fully focused on getting to Saudi Arabia and getting racing.
Last season was certainly one of mixed fortunes Daniel Sanders. After placing seventh at Dakar, the hard-charging Aussie went on to win his first FIM World Rally-Raid Championship round at the Sonora Rally in April. Unfortunately, just weeks later, Daniel sustained a season-ending leg injury. But the good news is, he’s back to near 100% fitness, and looking forward to the upcoming Dakar.
“We’ve been doing some testing and training in America preparing for the race and everything has been going well,” Sanders declared. “It’s been six and a half months since I broke my femur – a pretty long recovery as it was a bad break, and healing wasn’t really going to plan. I had a quick surgery at the end of October, so the last six weeks have been massively better, and I’ve been able to get on the bike to get a month’s training in. It looks like the first week of Dakar is going to be hard with very long stages so endurance will be the key, as well as having the best setup on the bike to save energy. The plan is to just start off easy and gradually gain more confidence and speed. Being with the team a lot recently has been really positive and motivating and it’s helped me get my confidence back. Hopefully my luck will turn in 2024 and I’ll have a good Dakar after a rough go at it during the past two years.”
Dakar 2024 offers a new start and another chance for Sam Sunderland to clinch a third victory at the gruelling event. With extensive Dakar experience, this will be Sam’s 11th time lining up for the race, and together with his knowledge of how this rally is won, we’re expecting the Brit to be running up front from day one.
“It was great to spend some time in America putting the final touches on Dakar 2024 preparations and everything went really well,” Sunderland said. “During testing with the team we’re always working hard to find the smallest details to improve things with the bike, and I think come January, we’ll be rewarded for our efforts. I’m feeling really good and full of motivation after some hard work, which I’ll continue until we head off to Saudi Arabia. I’m excited for the race and I think we’ll have a good run this year!”
Andreas Hölzl – Rally Team Manager concluded by saying, “After the final test in the US, the boys are looking really confident and well-prepped for Dakar! Sam is fit, he’s confident on the bike and happy with his setup. And with his skills and Dakar experience, he’s looking really good. Finally, we have Daniel back after his long recovery, he’s looking promising and he knows Dakar well too, so he should be fast! From the technical side we are well prepared and have made some big steps. Everything is going as it should, so we are ready to go!”
The 2024 Dakar Rally starts on January 5, 2024, and covers 14 stages through the desert of Saudi Arabia before ending on January 19. This year’s edition features a new 48-hour, 584km ‘Chrono Stage’ where competitors will be split across eight different bivouacs overnight. It’s shaping up to be the toughest Dakar yet!