Bruised Australian motorcyclist Daniel Sanders overcame a painful head scare in the Dakar rally to keep his title hopes alive.
The Victorian’s face was left with bruises after crashing into his KTM 450’s navigation screen during the Saudi race’s longest – and one of the most grueling – stage on Wednesday.
The motorcycle’s airbag was thankfully deployed after Sanders suffered a hard landing following a jump in the middle of the dunes at the end of the 465 km trek from Al Qaisumah to the capital Riyadh.
His face was bruised, but he felt he was lucky to get by without a serious crash and recovered to finish the 465km fourth stage in 17th position behind winner Joan Barreda, who won his second race victory.
This propelled Sanders from a spot to fourth in the overall standings, just seven minutes and seven seconds behind race leader Sam Sunderland, his British teammate for Spanish team GasGas.
That’s just a small gap in an exhausting two-week affair that takes place only among the sand, rocks and dunes of Saudi Arabia during the 44th edition of the famous race.
“I landed from a dune jump on a mound. That’s why my face is like this – I planted the navigation screen on the front,” Sanders told the race’s official website as ‘he was examining his bruises.
“It was a very difficult day. I hit my head pretty hard, but I was very lucky not to fall.
“The airbag went off and it was good to regroup and do the next refueling, to finish strong and try not to waste too much time today because it was the biggest stage of the race. It was a lot of fun. “
Two-time Australian winner Toby Price, on his factory Red Bull KTM bike, finished 29th on the stage and is now 16th – 43min 36sec behind Sunderland.
In the cars section, Qatari Nasser Al Attiyah won with a 38-minute lead as the event underwent increased security after a French team vehicle was hit by an explosion in Jeddah la last week.
The official Toyota driver finished second on the stage but was promoted after Saudi driver Yazeed al-Rajhi was fined two minutes for speeding.
This is the 44th career stage victory for three-time Dakar winner Al Attiyah, and the second this year in addition to the prologue.
Nine-time world rally champion Sébastien Loeb, Qatari’s closest rival with the Bahrain Raid Xtreme team, finished second, 25 seconds behind, with Audi Carlos Sainz third.
Race director David Castera told French newspaper L’Equipe that he had asked local authorities for more police protection.
He spoke after French prosecutors opened a terrorism investigation into an explosion under a French team vehicle two days before the event began in Jeddah.