Photo: Flavien Duhamel/Red Bull Content Pool
It’s all over, and Sam Sunderland has won the 2017 Dakar rally for the KTM factory team.
KTM didn’t just take top spot for the 16th straight year; Team Orange swept the podium, with second going to Matthias Walkner, and third going to Gerard Farres Guell. Yamaha’s Adrien Van Beveren finished a heartbreaking 48 seconds off the podium — he earned a minute’s penalty for speeding in the liaison stage yesterday, which cost him third place.
Still, it was a real comeback year for Yamaha’s bikes, and the factory team looks strong if the riders all return next year, with more experience.
Sunderland paid his dues to earn his win; his first Dakar was in 2012, for the Honda factory team. He jumped ship to KTM after the 2014 race. Ever since his debut, it’s been obvious he was capable of victory, but bad luck hindered him, whether it was mechanical problems or injuries; this is the first time he’s actually finished the race! He’s risen above the misery, and is the first Brit to win in the motorcycle category.
Maybe his former teammates at Honda can draw inspiration from that victory, and climb atop the standings next year. The team’s Instagram page had the following “sour grapes” note:
Too bad for them there is no point on the podium for moral winners, but everyone remembers a sore loser.
Honda’s Joan Barreda would indeed have been the overall victor, had his team not been slapped with a massive penalty for refuelling in a neutralization page, and his riding partner Paulo Goncalves would have been second. Instead, they finished fifth and sixth overall, respectively.
Laia Sanz (KTM) was once again the top female competitor; she finished 15th overall. She’d hoped for top-10 placement, but a navigation error (she took bad advice from another rider) cost her that spot mid-way through the rally. You can bet she won’t make that mistake next year.
Sherco TVS managed to get Juan Pedrero Garcia into 13th place, and Speedbrain proved they’re still a force by getting Joaquim Rodrigues into 10th overall, on board an outdated bike. Look for improved results from them next year, for sure.
Final standings, Dakar 2017
1). Sunderland, KTM
2). Walkner, KTM, +00:33:09 (00:05:00 penalty)
3). Farres Guell, KTM, +00:37:22
4). Van Beveren, Yamaha, +00:38:10 (00:01:00 penalty)
5). Barreda, Honda, +00:44:32 (01:01:00 penalty)
6). Goncalves, Honda, +00:52:46 (00:48:20 penalty)
7). Renet, Husqvarna, +00:56:01
8). Caimi, Honda, +01:40:53 (01:05:00 penalty)
9). Rodrigues, Yamaha, +02:00:46 (00:27:00 penalty)