February 26, 2021

Dakar 2021: Sam Sunderland puts KTM back in contention

#21 Daniel Sanders - can he pull off a podium finish in his first year? (Photo credit: DPPI/F.Le Floc'h)

Ricky Brabec’s dream of back to back Dakar wins is fading fast after getting lost on Stage 11.

And Joan Barreda’s Dakar is over after a serious error caused him to run out of fuel!

Another crazy day in the 2021 Dakar Rally!

Going into the penultimate stage, Honda factory rider Kevin Benavides had a clear margin of over ten minutes on the leading KTM of Sam Sunderland.

And Brabec had fought back from being over 17 minutes behind the leader in Stage 8 to being just 51 seconds behind Benavides.

Things were looking good for Honda.

Ricky Brabec led the field out today and stayed in touch with the top spot in the first 100km of the special.

By the 127km timing point he seemed to be losing pace – he had lost nearly two and a half minutes to a hard charging Pablo Quintanilla.

But then a navigation error at 247km cost him plenty of time. By 306km he was well off the pace and over 9 minutes down.

He finished 6th in the stage, 12 minutes and 46 seconds behind the stage winner.

That drops him to 3rd overall and he now has a 7 minute 13 second deficit to make up on the final stage to take an overall win.

Can it be done? Unlikely, unless the leading 2 bikes have mishaps.

Joan Barreda made a serious error of judgement by not stopping at the mandatory refuelling point at 174km.

That was going to score him a massive penalty, but the more likely outcome was that he wouldn’t make it to the end of the stage.

At 267km he was stranded, out of fuel and out of the Dakar.

An early charge from Pablo Quintanilla moved him up from starting 15th to leading the stage. He held on and finished 2nd.

Quintanilla is realistically out of contention overall, but his performance today has reminded us of his incredible ability.

But today was Sam Sunderland’s day.

He came into Stage 11 in 3rd place and with a 10 minute and 36 second deficit.

No pressure Sam – but you’re the only one who can take the win for KTM now!

He took the lead at the 6th waypoint and held it to take the stage win.

But more importantly, he took over 5 minutes out of Kevin Benavides’ lead and now sits just 5 minutes and 7 seconds behind him going into the final stage.

That sets up an exciting showdown for the final stage!

Can Benavides put in a fast and error free run to take the win?

Or can Sam Sunderland pull off a miracle, regain over 5 minutes and and restore honour to the Austrian brand!

And remember what we predicted for Daniel Sanders? Well we were right – he’s up in 4th place overall and barring any mishaps in the final stage is set to take a top 5 finish in his rookie year!

Andrew Houlihan – Dakar 2021, Stage 11

He’s over 33 minutes behind the leader but also has a comfortable gap of 15 minutes over 5th placed Skyler Howes.

Andrew Houlihan, who has been riding with a broken scaphoid in his right wrist since day 3, said “the dunes weren’t so bad today”. That gave him some reprieve – but not much – from the intense pain he has endured each day.

“Today was a pretty clean run with no crashes”, he reported, “although a navigational error cost me about 20 minutes”.

Andrew finished 54th in the stage today and goes into the final day in 51st overall. A good clean run tomorrow or the retirement of a rider ahead of him could push him into a top 50 finish.

Pablo picked up a 20 minute penalty today for missing a waypoint. That dropped him to 56th on the day but he still holds on to 49th overall. 

With one stage to go there’s just 449km – 247km of liaison and 202km of special – to the finish line in Jeddah!

At the end of the eleventh stage, the overall placings are:

  • 1. Kevin Benavides (#47 Monster Energy Honda)
  • 2. Sam Sunderland (#5 Red Bull KTM) +0:05:07
  • 3. Ricky Brabec (#1 Monster Energy Honda) +0:07:13
  • 4. Daniel Sanders (#21 KTM Factory) +0:33:58
  • 5. Skyler Howes (#9 BAS Dakar KTM Racing) +0:49:01
  • 28. Michael Burgess (#80 BAS Dakar KTM Racing) +10:19:24
  • 49. Pablo Guillen (#35 Coca-Cola Nomadas Adventure) +23:03:24 
  • 51. Andrew Houlihan (#62 Coca-Cola Nomadas Adventure) +24:42:13

Motorcycle Life is supporting Andrew Houlihan and Pablo Guillen in their rookie year at the 2021 Dakar Rally.

For updates on their progress and more behind the scenes news, follow them on Facebook and Andrew’s website – The Road To Dakar 2021.

Andrew is also posting a daily diary on Speedcafe.