Daniel Sanders has opened proceedings of the 2022 Dakar with a commanding win in the Prologue crossing the line a full minute ahead of Pablo Quintanilla and Ross Branch
Sanders prologue win was also his maiden Dakar stage win. It was a first in more than one way, as the Australian also netted GasGas its first triumph in the Dakar. As the icing on the cake, it was the first victory for the KTM 450, the latest showpiece of the Mattighofen factory, unveiled in Morocco last year. Spain’s GasGas is the 13th constructor to take a stage in the Dakar motorbike race. The rally had not feted a new winner since 2010 when Sherco and Aprilia opened their accounts.
After departing Jeddah along the Red Sea for a northbound 225 km transfer, the starting shot for the qualifying stage/Prologue was fired at the entrance to the Medina region. The opening 19 km sprint was a sign of things to come: sandy tracks and dunes in an all-sand timed sector in which the entrants crowned and gobbled up dunes, sometimes even broken ones, and climbed to an altitude of close to 400 metres.
The caravan then headed northeast for a 614 km liaison to Ha’il, where the grand start podium awaited the participants for tomorrow’s stage 1B on a loop course.
Behind Sanders all the heavy hitters were in attendance with defending champion Kevin Benavides and Matthias Walkner fourth and fifth respectively. Adrien Van Beveren, Sam Sunderland, duel Dakar winner Toby Price, Andrew Short and Joan Barreda made up the top ten.
This evening, at the drivers’ briefing, the top finishers will be able to choose the starting order for tomorrow’s stage 1B, a looping stage in Ha’il, including 333 kilometres of special stage. It will be run over sandy tracks, reaching an altitude of 1,300 metres, with a fair degree of navigational complexity. However, not all of the route will be against the clock: a total of 181 kilometres of liaison section will complete the day’s 514-kilometre total. The departure from the Ha’il bivouac will be at 05:45 and the first riders are expected to arrive back at the bivouac from 12:45 (local time) onwards.