Dakar 2017: Sunderland, Peterhansel triumph overall in bikes, cars

Sunderland breaks through. Photo: Getty Images
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Sam Sunderland has become the first British competitor to ever capture a victory at the Dakar Rally, with the Red Bull KTM rider completing his journey on Saturday in the 2017 Dakar Rally to win the bike category.

Coverage from Friday’s stage will air today, January 14 at 6:30 p.m. ET, with 12th and final stage coverage on Sunday, January 15 at midnight ET on NBCSN.

While Sunderland’s story is a remarkable one on it own, the man known as “Mr. Dakar,” Stephane Peterhansel, has continued to add to his own remarkable story. The Peugeot driver has captured his 13th Dakar victory, and second in a row in cars.

Eduard Nikolaev (trucks) and Sergey Karyakin (quads) have captured those class victories.

Today’s 12th and final stage from Rio Cuarto to Buenos Aires was one of the shortest stages in this year’s Dakar, which made big movement up-and-down the field rather unlikely.

BIKES

Sunderland had not even finished his first few cracks at Dakar. Mechanical failures sidelined him in 2012 and 2014, the latter year after he became the youngest stage winner in Dakar history with a win on the first stage in Argentina.

But he wasn’t even able to start in 2013 and 2016, the latter year breaking his femur.

Sunderland secured his first and only stage win of this year’s Dakar on day five, making it five winners in as many days. However, he won the rally with out-and-out consistency, with only one major stoppage costing him any sort of time and recovering to a third place in stage seven.

Sunderland was only sixth in today’s stage – Adrien Van Beveren and Gerard Farres set an identical time of 30 minutes and 29 seconds to tie for the stage win – but with more than 30 minutes in hand of a lead going into the day, the Englishman could afford to bring it home without worry.

“To finish here is incredible. It’s the first Dakar I ever finished. To finish first is an incredible feeling. I’m so lost for words!” Sunderland said after the rally. “I’m so grateful to the team, the organizers, all the people around me. It’s not an individual effort.”

His near flawless run will go down in British motorsport and Dakar history rather nicely. A further breakout post from the Red Bull Content Pool is linked here.

Sunderland won from Walkner by 32 minutes, with Farres moving onto the final podium in third by way of his run today to complete a KTM podium sweep, continuing KTM’s incredible run of form.

Van Beveren finishes this overall rally in fourth, top Yamaha, with Joan Barreda, the Honda rider who led bikes with three stage wins settling for fifth after a one-hour penalty for a fuelling infringement in stage four ultimately putting pause to his chances. Paulo Goncalves, another Honda rider, was sixth with 48 minutes and change worth of penalties.

Of note, American Ricky Brabec captured his first stage win on his Honda in stage seven, but fell out of the rally near the end of the race. Toby Price, the defending bikes winner, has made it home to Australia following his accident early in the rally that left him with a fractured left femur. An outpouring of support came in for him as he is in his recovery process. Other injuries occurred on a brutal 10th stage, including to Pablo Quintanilla, Simon Marcic (in an incident with Peterhansel) and Stefan Svitko.

BIKE STAGE WINNERS

Stage 1: Juan Pedrero (Xavier de Soultrait penalized post-stage)
Stage 2: Toby Price
Stage 3: Joan Barreda
Stage 4: Matthias Walkner
Stage 5: Sam Sunderland
Stage 7: Ricky Brabec
Stage 8: Joan Barreda
Stage 10: Michael Metge
Stage 11: Joan Barreda (awarded three minutes; Paolo Goncalves demoted to second)
Stage 12: Gerard Farres/Adrien Van Beveren

CARS

Stephane Peterhansel at the finish of stage twelve of the 2017 Dakar Rally on January 14, 2017 in Rio Cuarto, Argentina. (Photo: Dan Isitene/Getty Images)

The car battle quickly shifted from a potential three-horse race among the Peugeot, Toyota and MINI competitors to a two-horse race among the two rally legends of this generation, Dakar legend Peterhansel and FIA World Rally Championship legend Loeb, both in Peugeots, rather early on once their rivals started falling by the wayside.

Myriad stoppages saw nearly all of the Toyota Hilux entries fall out early, including past Dakar winner Nasser Al-Attiyah, who was the only non-Peugeot stage winner this year. MINI never mounted a serious challenge with Mikko Hirvonen more than half an hour in arrears. And another Peugeot fell out as Carlos Sainz survived a wild barrel roll in stage four.

It left Peterhansel and Loeb to spar the rest of the rally, often separated only by seconds rather than minutes, but with Peterhansel having eked out just enough of a margin of more than five minutes to ensure Loeb didn’t have a realistic chance to close that gap today.

In the end, as in bikes, the competitor who boasted the most stage wins did not win the class overall. Loeb added six stage wins this year to his four from last year, including the last four in a row from stage eight through today’s stage 12.

All the while though, Peterhansel was pushing him closely and the gap never swung too far. “Mr. Dakar” captured his 13th Dakar victory by five minutes and 13 seconds over Loeb. Cyril Despres, the last driver not named Loeb or Peterhansel to win a stage in cars, ended third to complete the car podium.

Nani Roma and Giniel De Villiers upheld Toyota’s honor somewhat with fourth and fifth place finishes overall, but more than an hour back in both cases. In sixth, Orlando Terranova was the top MINI finisher in the car originally slated for American Bryce Menzies, who was ruled out prior to the start of the rally.

CAR STAGE WINNERS

Stage 1: Nasser Al-Attiyah
Stage 2: Sebastien Loeb
Stage 3: Stephane Peterhansel
Stage 4: Cyril Despres
Stage 5: Sebastien Loeb
Stage 7: Stephane Peterhansel
Stage 8: Sebastien Loeb
Stage 10: Sebastien Loeb
Stage 11: Sebastien Loeb
Stage 12: Sebastien Loeb

QUADS/TRUCKS

Eduard Nikolaev (trucks) and Sergey Karayakin (quads) put their stamp on the respective classes as the rally went on. With Gerard De Rooy falling from contention in trucks, it left Nikolaev to control that category. In quads, Karaykin fought off Igancio Casale’s advances, although Casale fell back later.

STAGE MAP

STAGE RECAPS

Stage 11
Stage 10 and (VIDEOS)
Stage nine (cancelled due to weather) and (VIDEO)
Stage eight (VIDEOS)
Rest day VIDEOS
Stage seven
Stage six (cancelled due to weather)
Stage five (shortened due to weather)
Stage four and (VIDEOS)
Stage three and (VIDEOS)
Stage two and (VIDEOS)
Stage one and (VIDEOS)

SuperMotocross: Ken Roczen urgently needed change

Roczen change
Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media
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Change can be frightening, but it is often exhilarating and Ken Roczen, a rider in his ninth season on a 450 bike, it was urgently needed.

Roczen ended the 2022 Supercross season with his worst performance in five years. After finishing outside of the top five in seven of his last eight rounds in the stadium series, well down the points’ standings in ninth, he decided to put that season on hold.

How it ended was in stark contrast to how it began. Roczen’s 2022 season got off to the best possible start. He won the Supercross opener at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California by more than seven seconds over the 2021 champion Cooper Webb.

That would be his last podium and he scored only one more top-five in the Glendale, Arizona Triple Crown.

MORE: Ken Roczen sweeps top five in Anaheim 2 Triple Crown

Before 2022, Roczen was a regular challenger for the championship despite being plagued by major accidents that required surgery in 2017 and 2018. On his return, he was diagnosed with the Epstein-Barr virus, which presents with symptoms of heavy fatigue, muscle weakness and loss of appetite and last year he tested positive for COVID-19.

Against those odds, he finished second in the outdoor season in 2019 and third in 2020. In the Supercross series, he finished third in 2020 and second in 2021.

But the abbreviated season of 2022 signaled a need for change for Roczen.

“I needed the change urgently,” Roczen said in last week’s post-race press conference at Angel Stadium. “I did a pretty big change in general.”

Those comments came three races into the 2023 with him sitting among the top three finishers for the first time in 10 Supercross rounds. It was the 57th podium of his career, only six behind 10th-place Ryan Villopoto. It was also the first for Suzuki since 2019 when Chad Reed gave them one in Detroit 63 rounds ago.

Taking time off at the end of the Supercross season had the needed effect. He rejoined SuperMotocross in the outdoor season and immediately stood on the podium at Fox Raceway in Pala, California. Two rounds later, he won at Thunder Valley in Lakewood, Colorado. The relief was short lived and he would not stand on the podium again until this year.

Roczen Motocross Round 3
Ken Roczen won Round 3 of the outdoor season in 2022 at Thunder Valley after finished second in Moto 1 and first in Moto 2. Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

Winds of Change

Roczen’s offseason was dramatic. Citing differences over his announcement to compete in the World Supercross Championship, he split with Honda HRC and declared himself a free agent. It wasn’t a difficult decision; Roczen was signed only for the Supercross season.

That change had the desired effect. Roczen won the WSX championship in their two-race, pilot season. More importantly, he proved to himself that he could compete for wins.

Late in the offseason, Roczen announced he would also change manufacturers with a move to HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki. He won the 2016 Pro Motocross title for Suzuki with nine wins in 12 Nationals and finished no worse than second. He easily outran the competition with an advantage of 86 points over second-place Eli Tomac.

“I just think change overall made it happen – and these overseas races – it’s really just a snowball,” Roczen said. “You start somewhere and you feel like something works out and I got better and had more fun doing it. Working with the team as well and working on the motorcycle to get better and actually see it paying off. It’s just, it’s just a big boost in general.”

The return to Suzuki at this stage of his career, after nearly a decade of competing on 450 motorcycles, recharged Roczen. He is one of three riders, (along with Cooper Webb and his former Honda teammate Chase Sexton), with a sweep of the top five in the first three rounds of the 2023 Supercross season.

But last week’s podium really drove home how strong he’s been.

“I think we’re all trying to take it all in,” Roczen said. “I wouldn’t say it came out of nowhere really, but before the season starts you think about – or I thought of how my whole last season went – and it’s been a long time since I’ve been on the podium.”

Roczen’s most recent podium prior to Anaheim 2 came at Budds Creek Motocross Park in Mechanicsville, Maryland last August in Round 10 of the outdoor season. His last podium in Supercross was the 2022 season opener that raised expectations so high.

Supercross Round 1 results
Ken Roczen raised expectations with his season opening win at Anaheim but did not stand on the box again in the Supercross series. Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

The change Roczen needed was not just a different team and bike. More importantly, he needed the freedom to set his own schedule and control his training schedule.

“It’s long days, but I’m really into it at the moment,” Roczen said. “Overall, I felt [that] throughout this off season and now my health has been really well, really good, so that helps. It’s needed to get to the top. I’m pretty confident that we’re, we’re doing the right thing – that I’m doing the right thing.

“I’m doing all my training on my own and I’m planning out my entire week. And I feel like I have a really good system going right now with recovery and putting in some hard days. Right now, I don’t really have anybody telling me what to do. I’m the best judge of that.

“It’s really hard to talk about how much work we’ve put in, but we’ve been doing some big changes and riding a lot throughout the week, some really, really late days. And they’re paying off right now; we’re heading in the right direction. We’re all pulling on the same string, and that helps me out big time.”