“Fully intend to break my run of bad luck”
British born, Dubai based Sam Sunderland has to be the most talented rally-raid rider to have so far never finished a Dakar. A rising star in the UK national moto-x championships, when Sam was 15 crashed heavily on his 125 breaking both his ankles and his pelvis putting him out of action for a year. Needing a change of scenery, at 19 he went to stay with aunt and uncle in Dubai, got a job with KTM out there and started racing the local Baja series ‘just for fun'. Winning the series, he was offered a late entry in the 2011 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge and achieved two stage wins against the best in the world. That saw him sign for Honda's then new rally team for the 2012 Dakar where in finished 7th on the first stage before going out with mechanical problems the next day. That same year he won the Merzouga Rally but then crashed in training just before the Dakar and was unable to start. In 2014 he was again forced to retire with mechanical problems on the 4th stage. In 2015 he signed for KTM and won the first stage before crashing out in stage four. Later that year he won the OiLibya Rally in Morocco before breaking his femur at the Merzouga, again making it impossible to start the 2016 edition.
“Not a very glorious record I admit, though if you look a little bit behind the DNFs and the failures to start you can see that a lot of it has simply been down to bad luck. This year I decided that the Dakar was to be my only goal. Obviously you have to do other races to prepare for it, but I've only done world championship rounds and they've gone pretty well. I finished 2nd in the Desert Challenge, won in Qatar and more recently finished 2nd in Morocco. I've also been training hard and am feeling very positive about my chances of having a good run come January. I reckon that after last year's race, which in Dakar terms at least, was relatively easy, they are really going to pile on the pressure this year, which is fine by me. My strategy is going to be just to take it a day at a time and if nothing crazy happens I should be in a good position come the final finish line.”