Dakar 2022, Stage 1: Sanders stretches lead over Quintanilla

GasGas rider Daniel Sanders extended his advantage in the first full stage of the Dakar Rally on Sunday, as KTM’s Matthias Walkner jumped up two places to move into third behind Honda’s Pablo Quintanilla.

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Having won the 19km Prologue on Saturday, Sanders elected to start the first stage in Ha'il from 15th place, minimising the risk of getting lost in the desert without the tracks left behind by other riders.

The strategy immediately paid dividends as he carved up a small 21-second lead at the first waypoint, before more than doubling his advantage to 46 seconds at the 160km mark.

Quintanilla managed to close the gap back down to 18s in the next 40km, but the Australian rider put the hammer down in the final part of the day, winning the 333km stage by an impressive margin of 2m07s.

This gives the 27-year-old a healthy 3m07s advantage heading into the second stage of the rally-raid from Hail to Al Artawiya on Monday.

Honda rider Quintanilla wasn’t always Sanders’ closest challenger in the opening stage, dropping as low as fourth in the early sections of the stage, but he mounted a strong comeback to retain second place in the overall standings.

2018 Dakar winner Walkner gained two places on Sunday to grab third place in the general classifications, but the Austrian lost over eight minutes over the course of the day and now trails Sanders by 11m06s.

Rookie Mason Klein finished an impressive fourth on the BAS KTM, just 14 seconds off the pace of Walkner, with Lorenzo Santolino putting on an equally strong performance on the Sherco TVS to clinch fifth.

Adrien van Beveren was Yamaha’s top representative in sixth at the end of the stage, but holds fourth place in the overall standings ahead of Mason, KTM’s Sam Sunderland - who was only eighth-quickest on Sunday - and Santolino.

Husqvarna’s Xavier de Soultrait, Yamaha rider Ross Branch and teammate Skyler Howes rounded out the top 10 in the general classifications.

Replacing the injured Franco Caimi at Hero MotoSports, Aaron Mare ended the day a fine 11th in the overall standings, edging out the Slovnaft KTM of Stefan Svitko.

After finishing the Prologue down in 23rd, MotoGP convert Danilo Petrucci enjoyed a much more fruitful day aboard the Tech 3 KTM bike, finishing 33m down on Sanders in 13th place.

This leaves him 12th in the overall rankings, three places ahead of reigning champion Kevin Benavides and his factory KTM.

Benavides, who stood fourth after the Prologue on Saturday, dropped 36 minutes to overall pacesetter Sanders and now faces an uphill climb to defend the title he won with Honda last year.

Another KTM rider to endure a torrid day was two-time champion Toby Price, who now sits the best part of an hour behind the frontrunners in 22nd place.

Overall standings after Stage 1:

Pos. # Rider Marque/bike Time Gap
1 4 SANDERS DANIEL GasGas 04:38:40  
2 7 QUINTANILLA PABLO HONDA 04:41:47 +00:03:07
3 52 WALKNER MATTHIAS KTM 04:49:46 +00:11:06
4 42 VAN BEVEREN ADRIEN YAMAHA 04:51:26 +00:12:46
5 43 KLEIN MASON BAS KTM 04:53:14 +00:14:34
6 3 SUNDERLAND SAM GasGas 04:54:36 +00:15:56
7 15 SANTOLINO LORENZO SHERCO 04:55:34 +00:16:54
8 12 DE SOULTRAIT XAVIER HUSQVARNA 04:57:16 +00:18:36
9 16 BRANCH ROSS YAMAHA 04:58:01 +00:19:21
10 5 HOWES SKYLER HUSQVARNA 05:03:52 +00:25:12
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