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Double Dakar champion Sunderland feels the lure of four wheels

Double Dakar champion Sunderland feels the lure of four wheels

Winner of the bike category, Gasgas Factory Racing's Sam Sunderland celebrates after stage 12. (Photo: REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed)

LONDON: After winning the Dakar Rally twice on two wheels, Sam Sunderland has been thinking more about doing it on four.

The 32-year-old Red Bull-backed motorcycle rider has long harboured a desire to have a go in the car category and his second victory in Saudi Arabia this month could help prise open some doors.

"It is difficult, there aren’t many options available to jump in a four-wheeler," the only Briton to win the Dakar told Reuters.

"I love racing my bike, I just feel like it would be maybe a little bit safer with a cage and a seatbelt on.

"I have to see if something comes up now I’ve got the second one in the bag. It’s definitely still in the back of my mind somewhere.

"If something comes up that’s good, I’ll consider it. But it took a lot of work and sacrifice to arrive where I have now, and for sure I don’t want to give all that up ..."

The Dakar was less cruel this year, with no fatal accidents during the two weeks of racing compared to past years. Two motorcycle riders died after falls in the 2020 edition and one last year.

"Mr Dakar" Stephane Peterhansel is the most successful of several bike riders who moved to cars, the Frenchman winning the Dakar six times on two wheels and another eight on four. Spaniard Nani Roma has also won in both categories.

The two-week event which started in 1978 as the Paris-Dakar has a reputation as one of the most dangerous on the global motorsport calendar.

Sunderland, who divides his time between Dubai and Andorra, has one year remaining on his contract with GasGas, part of the KTM Group, and will be back on a motorcycle for the 2023 edition.

The Red Bull athlete took his first title in South America in 2017, the culmination of years of effort, and he said this one resonated in a different way.

"We were fighting over minutes until the last day of a 12 day race," he said.

"It was so stressful and just putting so much effort in every day, I think it just makes it taste that much sweeter, to get it done after such a big fight."

Sunderland gave himself an early adrenaline rush for this year's race by clambering to the top of the world's tallest building, Dubai's 828m high Burj Khalifa, and standing alone against the sky at the pinnacle for a promotional video.

He said it was "probably one of the craziest things I have ever been able to do" even if it still felt safer than some Dakar stages.

"We took the lift up to the 160th floor and then it was an hour of climbing ladders (to the top)," he said.

"When I first peered over the edge I was like ‘That is not for me mate, thank you very much. I’m staying in the tube’. But they managed to coax me out there.

"I had a harness on and a little pole behind me, but I would have liked a bigger one."

Source: Reuters

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