Reigning Dakar Rally champion Sam Sunderland crashes out on opening stage

Reigning Dakar Rally champion, Sam Sunderland, has crashed out of the race during the first stage down the west coast of Saudi Arabia.

The Briton, who won the 2017 and 2022 editions, smashed into a rock and was hospitalised with tests later confirming he has suffered a broken shoulder blade.

Sam Sunderland ‘lucky’ not to be more seriously injured 

Sunderland has failed to finish six times out of his 10 starts at the famous rally, with the 33-year-old rider having actually tracked as the fastest at the first checkpoint before crashing out.

MORE: Australians Toby Price and Daniel Sanders finish 1-2 in Dakar Rally prologue

A new winner will now be crowned in the motorcycle category upon the completion of the race on January 15th.

“Unfortunately, Sam crashed out of the race today around 52km into the opening stage,” Team Manager for Red Bull GasGas Factory Racing, Norbert Stadlbauer, said.

“He’s broken his shoulder blade and has a concussion, so his time here at the Dakar is sadly over.

“It’s such a shame that this has happened as I know he had high hopes of making it back-to-back wins and we are lucky that he was not more seriously injured.

“It’s disappointing for sure but this is how racing goes sometimes.”

“These moments are what make the victories so special,” Sunderland stated on an Instagram post afterwards.  

“Being out of Dakar on day one is a tough pill to swallow.

“I felt really good this morning and was leading for the short part of the stage I rode, then I missed a stone under the sand in a riverbed and had a pretty violent crash.”

Aussie duo still in contention after strong showings in Stage 1 

Sunderland’s teammate, Daniel Sanders, is still in contention for GasGas Racing.

Although the Australian was one of a plethora of riders who incurred time penalties for speeding in a selective section during the opening stage. 

Sanders is making his own comeback from injury after crashing out of the 2022 edition when he broke his left wrist and elbow in an accident during the opening liaison for Stage 7.

“It was a long year without racing, so I got my rhythm back,” he told dakar.com.

“I didn’t make any blunders. It feels good to be back, especially in the Dakar.”

Meanwhile, fellow Aussie Toby Price made an impressive start to the endurance rally he has won twice before, finishing as the winner of Saturday’s prologue before also posting a strong time in Stage 1.

He sits in third place in the general rankings, 39 seconds behind American Ricky Brabec who claimed the victory for the opening stage of the 45th edition of the race.  

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