GASGAS: Defending Their Dakar Rally Title

1 year ago | Words: Andy Wigan | Photos: GASGAS Motorcycles

It’s been a year of mixed fortunes for our heavy-hitting rally stars, but as 2022 draws to a close, we’re gearing up for the big one again – the 2023 Dakar Rally. With Red Bull-backed GASGAS Factory Racing’s Sam Sunderland and Daniel Sanders both showing immense pace in Saudi Arabia last January, each has experienced a very different season this year, but both are 100% committed to enjoying the 45th running of the iconic race and ultimately doing their very best.

Sunderland’s 2022 Dakar Rally victory was the start of a hugely successful year for the Brit. Following on from the 2022 Dakar victory, he headed to the United Arab Emirates for Round 2 of the World Rally-Raid Championship and promptly stamped his authority there with another convincing win.

A top-five result at the Rallye du Maroc put Sunderland within reach of his second career world title. And with another strong showing at the final round in Spain, where the RX450F racer rode to another calculated fifth-place finish, the job was done and Sam Sunderland was crowned 2022 FIM World Rally-Raid Champion.

Now, already deep into his training program and focused on the major task ahead of him – his Dakar Rally title defence – Sunderland is fully aware of the challenge that awaits. But as always, the two-time Dakar winner will give his absolute all and fight hard for the win at the world’s toughest rally.

With unquestionable speed, especially over the dunes seen on the first week of the 2022 Dakar Rally, Daniel Sanders was well on course to fight for a podium result. Disappointingly, the crash that ruled him out of the event resulted in a fractured elbow and wrist – injuries that unfortunately took longer than anticipated to heal. Despite requiring several extra surgeries throughout the year, the 27-year-old Aussie is now close to full fitness and once again has his sights on Dakar success.

Earning two stage wins at the 2022 event, Sanders comes into the upcoming 2023 Dakar with more experience, a better understanding of what to expect from the punishing terrain, and also the skills and confidence required to open stages during the two-week race. With very little pressure on his shoulders, Sanders will be aiming to shake things up in his own unique way when the start flag drops on December 31.

Sam Sunderland: “This season has been incredible. To get the double – the Dakar win and the World Championship title – has been amazing. It’s taken a lot of work, both by me and the whole team, but it’s paid off massively. Now, going into the 2023 Dakar, I know exactly what it takes to win. When I first won the race back in 2017, I put myself under a lot of pressure to win again a year later. The 2023 race is looking to be one of the toughest ever and I’m under no illusion as to what that means. My mindset is a little different now – my plan is to go out there and enjoy it, take each day as it comes and try to maintain a good pace throughout the whole event. Hopefully near the end of the two weeks, we should be in a good place to battle for the top positions once again.”

Daniel Sanders: “After this year’s Dakar and of course crashing on Stage 7, it’s been a long year of surgeries and trying to get my body back in shape. I had a lot of bad luck with my recovery and things not healing up so good, but thankfully it’s all looking good now and I’ve been able to get back on the bike. It’s going to be a challenge going into one of the toughest races in the world without much time on the bike. The focus up to now has been to get my elbow strong enough to make it through Dakar and the rest of the 2023 season. The team have been great, and I’m getting stronger all the time. It’s a little daunting with the Dakar being my first race back after a season off, but my plan is to take it day-by-day and hopefully build things up as the event goes on. It’s a long race, but the goal is to definitely be well in the fight at the finish.”

Norbert Stadlbauer – GASGAS Rally Team Manager: “Our GASGAS riders have got some wings on their RX450F rally bikes for next year, courtesy of Red Bull. We’re really happy to intensify the relationship with the brand heading into the 2023 season. Sam Sunderland is coming off an incredibly successful year of racing, but is already training hard and looking forward to defending his Dakar title. Daniel Sanders has been off his bike through injury for most of the year, but the young Aussie is hungry for success and will give 100% at Dakar.”

Robert Jonas – Head of Motorsports Offroad: “The GASGAS rally project has been a huge success right from the start. And now, after an incredible 2022 season that saw Sam claim victory at the Dakar Rally as well as being crowned world champion, it’s only fitting that the team will now enjoy additional backing from Red Bull. With two incredibly talented riders in Sunderland and Sanders, we have a squad that is motivated and highly capable – a great mix of experience and enthusiasm. We’re fully expecting the team to challenge for the win once again at Dakar and wish everyone involved all the very best.”

The 2023 Dakar Rally starts December 31, 2022, and covers 14 stages through the desert of Saudi Arabia before ending on January 15, 2023.

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