Dakar Rally 2022 has ended with Brit Sam Sunderland taking the win aboard a GasGas bike (some may argue it’s simply a KTM with a red paint job, but the victory goes to GasGas nonetheless). Chilean Pablo Quintanilla (Honda) came in second and Matthias Walkner (KTM), third. Mere minutes separated the top three riders, and the race was insanely close for the last few stages; odd withdrawals (Daniel Sander’s liaison crash on an intersection) aside, the results were unpredictable until the very last day.
In the Original by Motul class, Lithuanian Arunas Gelazninkas took the win again. In Women’s category, Dutch Mirjam Pol was first – possibly owing to the fact that Laia Sanz has moved on to four-wheelers.
Overall, Rally Dakar 2022 saw 750 competitors in 430 vehicles covering over 8,000km during twelve stages starting and ending in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Much like last year, a lot of the stages were loops, and it seems that a race that once spanned multiple continents and countries is now reduced into a single-country rally looking more and more like an enduro championship race than what was once the original Rally Dakar.
This year, there were new changes introduced during the race: riders who did not complete the stage were allowed to re-enter the rally in the “joker” role. Previously, this was only an option to privateers in the “Dakar Experience” category; this year, when rookie Danilo Petrucci was forced to call for assistance due to a mechanical issue, he was allowed to continue the race. The same opportunity was awarded to Ross Branch and Kevin Benavides; while their results did not impact their Dakar standings, they could still score valuable points for their FIM Cross Country Rally championship series.
Another new trend this year was younger riders making a stand. Aussie Daniel Sanders had a very real chance of a podium finish (or even a victory). American Mason Klein, the youngest motorcycle competitor in the history of Rally Dakar, came in ninth overall – one position ahead of veteran Toby Price. Privateers-turned-factory riders are also challenging the older Dakar pros: US rider Skyler Howes, a privateer who has only recently won a place on a factory team, was doing exceptionally well until he crashed out and had to retire due to a severe concussion. Ross Branch, the Kalahari Ferrari, is another privateer-to-factory rider success story.
What do you think of Dakar Rally 2022, the new changes, and the new faces making a mark in the top ten? Share your thoughts in the comments below!