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Sunderland’s dreams of third Dakar title dashed

Al Duwadimi (Saudi Arabia) (AFP) – Two-time Dakar Rally motorcycle champion Sam Sunderland’s dreams of a third crown evaporated on Monday as a mechanical problem ended his interest in this year’s edition, organisers said.

The 34-year-old, who was riding for the Spanish team GasGas, came to a juddering halt just 11 kilometres into the 400km special from Al-Duwadimi to Al-Salamiya.

Sunderland, sixth overall after Sunday’s second stage, gave up after waiting for more than three hours hoping a vehicle would bring him oil.

Sunderland has a mixed record in the gruelling race, becoming the first Briton to win the title in 2017 and adding a second to his tally in 2022.

However, he has also several retirements since his debut in 2012, notably both years after his two victories.

The defence of his title last year ended on the first stage, a serious crash resulted in him fracturing a shoulder and concussion.

Botswana’s Ross Branch of the Hero team is the early overall leader in this year’s motorbike category, ahead of Chile’s Jose Ignacio Cornejo.

The race ends on January 19.

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