Australian Daniel Sanders achieves an astonishing fourth place on debut for the 2021 Dakar Rally

This post was written by AME

Australian Daniel Sanders achieves an astonishing fourth place on debut for the 2021 Dakar Rally

Following what was described as his ‘biggest learning curve’ in his young career, likeable Australian and multi time domestic and world enduro champion Daniel ‘Chucky’ Sanders has completed his rookie Dakar Rally campaign, bringing home his factory Red Bull KTM machine in an incredible fourth place.

The crown jewel of off-road racing began and finished in Jeddah for the 2021 event, traversing over Saudi Arabian terrain with a multitude of different landscapes from deep canyons to endless desert sand dunes, with riders reading their navigation systems while travelling up to 150km per hour.

After years of high level enduro racing, Sanders identified a want to further his career, and discussions with both KTM Australia and his management led him to the other side of the world, on the start line for Dakar with the coveted Factory Red Bull KTM squad.

‘After winning the ISDE (International six-day enduro), I was starting to look for something new; especially with the impact Covid had back home. Myself, KTM and my management discussed options, and it was either compete in the GNCC series in the United States, or make a start in rally racing,’ Sanders recounted.

‘Austria heard of my desire to compete in rally and put together a deal for me with KTM. Once the deal was done, I headed to Europe and the Middle East and trained for four months before lining up for this event.’

Two of the biggest differences for the enduro expat involved a totally new machine in a rally spec bike, along with having to navigate for yourself when out in the desert; something that cost him time early in the piece.

‘Usually, you go from a motocross bike to an enduro bike and its fairly easy to adapt. This was a totally new bike, so four months wasn’t a lot of time to become accustomed to it. Then you throw in navigation; you’re trying to read your road map while travelling at 150km/h, so that can have massive consequences,’ Sanders said.

For the 2021 event, there was no pressure put on the rookie by the team, as it was somewhat of a trial run to test whether this was a discipline he could fare well in. Despite the navigation issues, a couple crashes that resulted in stitches and even a bee sting, Sanders remarkably finished 38 minutes of seasoned veteran and Honda rider Kevin Benavides.

‘Hopefully this puts me on the map for the future. I really enjoyed myself and am stoked to come away with fourth place on debut, I really believe it’s only upwards from here. With more practise and time on the bike I think we can accomplish good things,’ Sanders finished.

Images by: Marcin Kin

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General classification: Bikes Top 10

Pos

Rider

Nat

Make

Time/Gap

1

Kevin Benavides

ARG

Honda

47:18:14

2

Ricky Brabec

USA

Honda

+0:04:56

3

Sam Sunderland

GBR

KTM

+0:15:57

4

Daniel Sanders

AUS

KTM

+0:38:52

5

Skyler Howes

USA

KTM

+0:52:33

6

Lorenzo Santolino

ESP

Sherco

+0:58:30

7

Pablo Quintanilla

CHI

Husqvarna

+1:16:39

8

Stefan Svitko

SVK

KTM

+1:43:07

9

Martin Michek

CZE

KTM

+2:22:37

10

Matthias Walkner

AUT

KTM

+2:32:12