Dakar: A superb start for Sam Sunderland in the bikes (VIDEO)


It wasn’t a bad way to make a debut for the Dakar Rally’s dominant team in the motorcycle category.

British rider Sam Sunderland, the newcomer on a KTM factory squad that boasts reigning Dakar champ Marc Coma, picked up an opening stage win in the run from Buenos Aires to Villa Carlos Paz, Argentina.

Sunderland has dealt with numerous instances of bad luck in the Dakar. In 2012, an electrical problem forced him out early. A pair of broken wrists kept him from racing in 2013. And last year, after winning the second stage for Honda’s Team HRC, he bowed out the next day with an engine failure.

In his Dakar experiences so far, he’s never gone beyond the fourth day of competition. Is his win today a sign that his luck will finally change with KTM, which is seeking its 14th consecutive win in the event? Time will tell, and in the meantime, Sunderland is keeping a big-picture approach.

“It’s difficult to judge your strategy based on the first day, because you still don’t know who’s pulled out all the stops,” he said on Sunday. “It’s also important not to go all in, you’ve got to leave something for the other stages…However, I think I had a good special [stage] and that’s always a reason to be happy.

“The bike didn’t miss a beat, it was very fast and I probably posted a good time. I’m a contender… for the first day. I hope I’m also a contender at the end, but we’ve only covered 175 kilometers and there’s still a long road before us.”

Chasing Sunderland early on is HRC’s Paulo Goncalves, who sits five seconds behind the Brit after a runner-up performance. Goncalves said he would have pushed a bit harder if he had known he was only a little bit behind Sunderland, but he was pleased nonetheless.

“We’ve got a long stage coming tomorrow and we’ll be racing up front,” said Goncalves, who like Sunderland was also knocked out early in last year’s Dakar. “For me, what’s important is to stay on my bike and avoiding the problems that plagued me in the previous year.

“I hope I won’t run into trouble and to finish the race in a decent position. I really want to help Honda win the Dakar. They’ve worked their socks off to put this amazing bike together, and I hope I can give something back to them by doing my bit for a Dakar victory.”

Following them in third was Coma at more than a minute behind Sunderland. HRC’s Joan Barreda, who fought Coma for supremacy over much of last year’s event, opened his 2015 edition in fourth, and Sherco’s Alain Duclos, a 2014 stage winner, sits fifth.

Said Coma of the opening day: “I felt good. It was quite an easy, fast stage, a very fast one. Avoiding mistakes was obviously very important. The start’s always risky business because you want to push hard and open up gaps. The stage was awesome. Rain over the last few days made certain spots muddy or wet, but nothing too difficult.”

2015 Dakar Rally – Motorcycle Standings
(After Stage One)
1. 6-Sam Sunderland (KTM), Leader
2. 7-Paulo Goncalves (Honda), + 0:05
3. 1-Marc Coma (KTM), + 1:12
4. 2-Joan Barreda (Honda), + 1:41
5. 14-Alain Duclos (Sherco), + 2:08
6. 12-Jeremias Israel (Honda), + 2:16
7. 9-David Casteu (KTM), + 2:36
8. 27-Matthias Walkner (KTM), + 2:42
9. 31-Pablo Quintanilla (KTM), + 2:58
10. 11-Ruben Faria (KTM), + 3:02

Coverage of the 2015 Dakar Rally starts Monday afternoon on NBCSN. Get your full Dakar TV schedule here.

Motocross: Chase Sexton to miss Hangtown after midweek practice crash

Sexton Hangtown practice crash
Align Media

Chase Sexton announced on Instagram he will sit out this weekend’s Pro Motocross race at Hangtown in Rancho Cordova, California after a practice crash on Tuesday left him with a concussion.

Sexton’s crash on Tuesday happened during a test session at Fox Raceway.

“Bummed to make this post but I’ll be sitting out this weekend,” Sexton said. “As you guys saw I had a big one during qualifying at Pala, then another one on Tuesday this week that banged me up pretty good. Nothing broken just need a few days to get back to 100%.”

Despite his crash in the first qualification session in Pala, California, Sexton mounted up for both motos and finished second in each race behind his teammate Jett Lawrence, who was making his Motocross debut and won with a pair of first-place finishes. Sexton padded his SuperMotocross points’ lead over the injured Eli Tomac, who is still second in the combined Supercross and Motocross standings despite missing the SX finale at Salt Lake City and the outdoor opener with a ruptured Achilles tendon.

Sexton has an advantage of 78 points over Cooper Webb and cannot give up his SMX lead by missing this round.

At stake, however, is the risk of losing ground to Lawrence in the Pro Motocross championship. Sexton currently trails his teammate by six points and is liable to lose significant ground this weekend.

In addition to his concussion, Sexton has also been diagnosed with mononucleosis and the combination of the two conditions caused the team to make the difficult decision to keep him out of the lineup at Hangtown.

“I’m super-bummed to miss this weekend’s race,” Sexton said in a press release. “I feel like I rode well at Pala, and I was really looking forward to Hangtown because it’s a good track for me. Unfortunately, I was already pretty banged up from my qualifying crash on Saturday, and now with mono and Tuesday’s concussion on top of it, I want to do the right thing and hopefully be back on the track soon.”

A return date for Sexton has not yet been announced.

Other 2023 Injury News

450 riders
Eli Tomac, Achilles tendon | It was just a freak deal
Justin Barcia,
collarbone and shoulder
Jason Anderson, vertebrae
Christian Craig, elbow
Marvin Musquin, wrist
Malcolm Stewart, knee | Signs two-year extension
Aaron Plessinger, hip | returned at Salt Lake City
Dylan Ferrandis, concussion | Will not return until Motocross
Cooper Webb,
concussion | returned at Pala

250 riders
Nate Thrasher, hip
Stilez Robertson, leg
Cameron McAdoo, shoulder
Seth Hammaker, arm and wrist
Austin Forkner, knee | Injury isn’t the hardest part
Jo Shimoda, collarbone | returned at Atlanta
Jalek Swoll, arm | returned at Pala