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Sunderland leads in Qatar

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Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Racing Team’s Sam Sunderland on Wednesday laid the foundation for a strong performance in the Sealine Cross-Country Rally at Qatar. He won Stage 2, the first desert stage to take an almost 10-minute lead over Portuguese rider Paolo Goncalves. Kevin Benavides of Argentina was third. Stage 1 was the 5 km Super Special dash with the top riders allowed to choose their own starting positions.

Sam Sunderland leads the overall standings and his two KTM factory teammates Matthias Walkner (AUT) and Antoine Meo (FRA) finished sixth and seventh in Wednesday’s stage. They hold the same positions in the overall standings and are currently 16- and 36 minutes off the overall lead-time but in this event, fortunes can change quickly.

Sunderland has enjoyed a strong start on his KTM 450 RALLY bike to the 2017 rally-raid season. He won the 2017 edition of the Dakar Rally in January and went on to take victory in the opening round of the FIM Cross Country Rallies world championship series in Abu Dhabi. Going into this event he has an eight-point lead over Chilean rider Pablo Quintanilla.

Sunderland: “Obviously starting from the back, the plan was to try to push and catch the guys. But it was tricky. There was a lot of navigation and I had to try to change the mentality from the last rally in Abu Dhabi to this kind of terrain with all of its stones, and a lot of changes in direction. I felt pretty good on the bike and it was working well, so it was a good stage. Now I just have to try to stay focused, do a good job and take it day by day.”

Walkner: “My day was quite okay up to the refueling, where I was third after I made a couple of small navigational mistakes. After that, I hit a stone pretty hard, and I was really lucky not to crash. This broke my rhythm a bit. I slowed down and it was very difficult to get the pace back again. It was quite a frustrating day but I hope I can do better tomorrow.”

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Meo, who is making his first appearance at the Qatar Rally, said it had been a really difficult day. “I made a big mistake around the 45 km mark. I went too much to the right and went about 12 km too far. Then I also made some other small mistakes but I am really happy with my riding and my feeling with the bike.” Meo also said he was happy that everything was good with his wrist, which has now recovered after a long injury break.

The rally is made up of four desert stages and finishes on Saturday.

Results Stage 1 Sealine Cross-Country Rally 2017
1. Antoine Meo (FRA), KTM, 4:31.90 min
2. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, +6:90 sec
3. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, +8.30
4. Pela Renet (FRA), Husqvarna, +10.90
5. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, +14:70
Other KTM
8. Adam Tomiczek (POL), KTM, +39.90
9. Maciej Giemza (POL), KTM, +44.20

Results Stage 2 Sealine Cross-Country Rally 2017
1. Sunderland, 3:43:21 h
2. Paolo Goncalves (POR), Honda, +9:25 min
3. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, +10:08
4. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI), Husqvarna, +12:34
5. Pela Renet (FRA), Husqvarna, +13:12
Other KTM
6. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, +16:07
7. Antoine Meo (FRA), KTM, +36:37
8. Giemza, +52.38
9. Mohammad Al Balooshi (ARE), KTM +55.13

Standings Sealine Cross-Country Rally 2017 after 2 of 5 stages
1. Sunderland, 3:48:01.20 h
2. Goncalves, +9:32.90 min
3. Benavides, +10:14.40
4. Quintanilla, +12:53.80
5. Renet, +13:14.60
Other KTM
6. Walkner, +16:05.60
7. Meo, +36:28.70
8. Giemza, +53:13.90
9. Al Balooshi, +56:01.13

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