Britain’s Sam Sunderland has won the Dakar 2022’s Bike category, whilst Nasser Al-Attiyah claimed a comfortable victory for Toyota in the Car class.
Sunderland, born in Poole but now based in Dubai for his off-road training, clung on to add to his 2017 victory by winning for GasGas – the first win for the brand at Dakar. Having controlled Dakar most of the way after leading from Stage 2, a difficult Stage 7 meant that Sunderland dropped down to fourth. However, the Brit reclaimed the lead on Stage 8.
Heading into the final stage, Sunderland’s margin over second-placed Pablo Quintalla was almost seven minutes, and though the Chilean hacked away half of that in an attempt to snatch victory at the death, Sunderland held on on to claim his second title by 3min 27sec.
“I honestly can’t be happier, I’m so grateful to all the team, all the work from everybody.” he said when victory was confirmed. “Honestly this last stage was so difficult and so much stress. A lot of navigation, a lot of tricky notes, a few times a bit confusing, not sure if I was going the right way. My head was gonna explode, but what a feeling! All of these moments along the way and the harder times you have just makes the feeling more great.”
Britain’s Sam Sunderland took his second Dakar win
In the Cars category, an assured performance from Toyota’s Nasser Al-Attiyah brought him his fourth Dakar win. Although the Qatari only won two of the events 12 stages, his consistency meant the Toyota man took victory with a gap of over 27min 46sec which belied the intensity of the battle with Prodrive’s Sébastien Loeb.
“It was an amazing win for us,” said Al-Attiyah, who had previously won in 2011, 2015 and 2019 in South America. “Three teams [were very] strong, it’s possible anyone can win here. But we did a good job – me and [co-driver] Matthieu [Baumel], always we are in good shape from the beginning of Dakar. This was very important for me to win in our region.”
The showdown’s main protagonists were decided early: a tricky opening stage with a hard-to-find waypoint meant all but Al-Attiyah and Loeb lost considerable time to navigational issues, with Audi’s Carlos Sainz shipping over two hours.
Loeb then had a serious setback when a propshaft issue lost him half an hour on Stage 3, a margin Al-Attiyah would maintain for the rest of the rally raid.
The Frenchman, who would lose even more time to Al-Attiyah with further navigational issues – meaning at one point he was 50 minutes behind – fought tooth and nail to drag himself back into contention, eventually bringing the gap down to under half an hour, ultimately was unable to usurp the canny Qatari in an intense battle. Loeb was runner-up, with local Saudi driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi coming home in third for the independent Overdrive team, driving a Toyota also.