Having shredded the tracks and trails of the British motocross scene since he was seven years old, Sam Sunderland has become a true international star, garnering a reputation as a fast and accomplished desert rider. His first major victories came in 2011, when he won two stages of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge and three others in the Australasian Safari.
Sam's inaugural Dakar outing was on New Year's Day, 2012 – at just 22 years old, he took an impressive seventh place finish on stage one of the event, but his dreams of a Dakar title were shattered when an electrical fault forced him to retire during day two. Instead of dwelling on the disappointment, Sam focused on the positives: he had not only finished in the top ten during his first Dakar outing, but was just three minutes off the pace of the leaders when he retired.
Having finished 13th overall in the 2012 Sardinia Rally (second in class), Sam went on to take a podium position at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, after leading the field for five days. He also played a lead role in TEAM HRC's stellar 2013 season, when he took the win at the Merzouga Rally in Morocco, virtually unchallenged. After a promising start in the 2014 Dakar, with a notable win in Stage 2, Sam was forced to withdraw during Stage 4 of the rally due to mechanical problems.
This kind of talent did not go unnoticed and soon he became part of the KTM family, getting great results in the World Rally Championship. In 2015 he won the first stage in Argentina but on stage 4 a heavy fall meant he was unable to continue. He was soon back and flying though and in October he was busy winning the OiLibya Morocco Rally. However, another heavy crash, this time at the Merzouga Rally in Morocco, saw Sam suffer a fractured femur that would keep him out of the Dakar Rally 2016.
However, the ambitious rider was undeterred despite the setbacks, and in 2017 returned to the Dakar with a win firmly in his sights. He maintained that focus throughout, despite adverse weather and stage cancellations, and managed to take his first title with his first ever Dakar finish, becoming the first British Dakar champion in the process.
"It's overwhelming," he commented after finishing the final stage. "When I crossed the line, the emotion really took over. It's been difficult to stay calm, especially when making navigation mistakes, but we're here, we did it, and I couldn't be any happier. Hopefully we can create some English interest now!"Read more