British motorcyclist Sam Sunderland (Jas Gass), champion of the Dakar Rally 2022, was forced to leave the 2023 edition of the race Sunday, in Saudi Arabia, due to an accident that occurred in the 52nd kilometer of the first stage, and he was subsequently transferred to the hospital.
Sunderland, crowned with two editions of the Dakar Rally (also won in 2017), faced the accident after the first control point, which he reached at the top of the stage (22:10), 10 seconds ahead of Chilean Pablo Quintanya (Honda) and Spaniard Juan Barreda (Honda).
At the scene of the accident, the medical team provided first aid to the British cyclist, according to the organizers, and although he was “conscious and fully able to move,” he was transferred due to back pain on the plane to Yanbu Hospital (Saudi Arabia) to undergo additional medical tests.
The Briton, who was running his tenth Dakar Rally, repeated what happened to him in his first title defense campaign, in 2018, although he left at the time in the fourth stage and after two partial victories.
820 drivers in the 2023 edition
On Saturday, the competitions of the 45th edition of the Dakar Rally, which the Kingdom is hosting for the fourth year in a row, began and will continue until January 15, 2023, with a distance of more than 8,500 km.
The first day witnessed the start of the preliminary stage of the rally, with a distance of 11 km, around the Al-Bahr camp in Yanbu, with the participation of 820 drivers and navigators. The light desert “T3 and T4”, in addition to the Dakar Classic category.
Swede Matthias Ekström, the driver of the Audi team, managed to win the preliminary round in the T1 category, recording the fastest time.
Frenchman Sebastien Loeb, the driver of the Bahrain Red Extreme team, ranked second, and compatriot Peter Hansel, the driver of the Audi team, came third.
While the Qatari Nasser Al-Attiyah, the driver of the “Toyota” team, who won the Dakar Rally title in its latest edition in 2022, came in fourth place, followed by the French “Goularin Chicheret”, the driver of the “GCK Motorsport” team, in fifth place, then the Spaniard Carlos Sainz, the driver of “Audi”. Sixthly.
As for the Saudi Yazeed Al-Rajhi, the “Overdrive” driver, he ranked seventh.
In the motorcycle category, Australian Toby Price, rider of the KTM team, topped this category, ahead of his compatriot Daniel Sanders, rider of the Gas Gas team, who arrived second, by one second.
The gardener, Ross Branch, representative of the “Hero” team, came in third place.
And in the category of quad bikes, Frenchman Alexandre Giroud launched a campaign to defend his title, by achieving first place in the preliminary stage, one second ahead of Brazilian Marcelo Medeiros, who ranked second, while Spaniard Daniel Villa came third in the ranking.
The Spanish Christina Gutierrez, the driver of the “Red Bull Can-Am” team, succeeded in obtaining first place in the category of light desert vehicles “T3”, followed by the American Seth Quintero, the driver of the “Red Bull Offroad” team, in second place.
The Belgian William de Mevius, the driver of the “Gerali Team” team, was the third to arrive in this category.
With regard to the category of light desert vehicles “T4”, the driver of the Lithuanian “Red Bull Can-Am” team, Rokas Pasiushka, took the preliminary lead, ahead of the Brazilian Cristiano Batista, the driver of the “South Racing” team, who arrived second.
Czech Martin Macek, the driver of the MM Technology Team, won first place in the truck category, ahead of Dutchman Martin Vandenbrink, driver of Eurol Team de Rooy.
The Dutchman, Janus van Kasteren, driver of the McInery Tim De Rooy team, ranked third in the preliminary stage.
It is noteworthy that the new version of the Saudi Dakar Rally 2023 consists of 14 stages, including one introductory stage, as it passes through the Red Sea, all the way to the coast of the Arabian Gulf, provided that this journey includes passing through Al-Ula, Hail, Dawadmi, Riyadh, Haradh, and the Empty Quarter.