Sunderland is back in the hunt after stage seven

Britain’s Sam Sunderland has bagged third overall in the Dakar 2021 rankings after finishing stage seven in fourth place three minutes behind reigning champion Ricky Brabec.

Heading north from the rest day bivouac at Ha’il, stage seven of the 2021 Dakar Rally led riders to Sakaka. This first half of the event’s marathon stage will see riders sleep in a temporary camp before continuing with the second leg on Monday, stage eight.

Arriving at the bivouac, competitors are forbidden from receiving any outside mechanical assistance on their machines and must carry out maintenance and any needed repairs themselves. As such, bike preservation over the entire two-day challenge is extremely important.

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With Sunderland’s tactic of stringing together solid, consistent finishes paying off, the Brit has elevated himself to third in the general overall standings due in part to his excellent performance on stage seven.

Racing much of the 453km special on his own, by concentrating on his navigation Sunderland gradually moved up the order as the stage progressed, ultimately claiming fourth at the line.

“It has been quite a hectic stage today – really long and difficult to know where the others are and where you are in terms of time. All you can do is keep pushing, but you don’t really see anyone else out there for three or four hours,” said Sunderland.

“I relied on my own judgement today and it seemed to have paid off. Even when you see the tracks ahead in the sand you have to focus on the road book to make sure you’re not making the same mistake as the riders ahead.

“I’m happy with how things went today, feeling good and the bike’s in good shape so I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

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