In a heartbreaking but legend-making finish to the 30th Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, Aussie Daniel Sanders was set to finish second after overcoming multiple navigational issues with raw speed.
But with just two kilometres to go on the final leg which offered no refuelling stops, Sanders’ Factory GasGas RC 450F spluttered to stop, its tank drained of fuel and his second place was lost, forcing Dan to push the bike in the sand to the line for 14th overall.
The story as Sanders tells it in his Instagram post, sums up his pain and his level of drive to win.
“Well where do I start…when you give everything you have all race, all season and put yourself in a good position, it came down to one litre of fuel or 10km too long of a roadbook. A miscalculated stage with no fuel stops from the race organiser was a bad move and I took it the worst. Leading the last stage I had 2nd comfortably and was pushing to try and win the race. When I saw my mate Walkner run out at 190 km I knew I was going to be in trouble for the next 25km, I ran out with 2km to go and leant the bike over to drain out of one side to the other for the last dance, I ran dry at the finish line having to push for punishment to get fuel (no assistance allowed) this situation was out of my control, I did everything possible and freaking rode well it was a shame to see the race finish like this after an amazing experience. I lost 2nd in the world championship and dropped to 3rd. The fire was already burning but now she’s next level.”
DAKAR NOW THE FOCUS FOR DANIEL SANDERS
Sanders is in his rookie year as a rally rider and has been learning so many of the lessons he needs to take him to the top. He’s won stages and finished the year strongly in third overall but he will only get faster and smarter.
“The last day has obviously been a huge disappointment for me and the team, but that’s racing – I guess you have to take the smooth with the rough. I started really well and was making good time through the dunes at the beginning of the stage. I realized about halfway through that with no refueling in the stage, and the type of terrain we were racing through, fuel was going to be a problem. So I tried to ease my pace as much as I could. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough, and I eventually ran out. Obviously, it’s not the best way to end the rally, especially after such a strong year but I’m pleased with how I’ve ridden, not just in Abu Dhabi, but over the whole season. My pace here has been really strong, I won a stage and did a good job of leading out after that. Again, it’s not the way I wanted to end the season, but as it’s just my first full year in the championship, I’m definitely pleased with how I’ve progressed and raised my level. Although the result here has knocked me back a little, I’ll just take the positives and look ahead to the Dakar in January. I’ve really gelled with the bike – my navigation is always improving, and my pace is definitely there. We’ve got less than two months till Dakar, and I’m going to be ready!”DANIEL SANDERS
The team will now look towards prep for the upcoming Dakar Rally, where Sanders will compete for the second time against fellow Aussie, Toby Price, as the two battle to win the most prestigious rally race on the planet.