Sunderland secures Dakar podium place after penalty taken away
British rider Sam Sunderland (KTM) finished third in the 2019 Dakar Rally’s bikes competition after race organizers on Thursday lifted a penalty that had been imposed on him for allegedly tampering with his motorcycle’s monitoring system.
Chile’s Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) appeared to have finished third in the race despite a disappointing 10th and final stage from Pisco to Lima in which he suffered a fall in his all-out bid to make up the one-minute, two-second gap separating him from leader Toby Price.
The decision to lift the penalty on Sunderland came at the end of the 10th stage and ensured that Austrian manufacturer KTM took all three podium places.
Price secured KTM’s 18th consecutive bikes title by beating out Austrian teammate - and defending champion - Matthias Walkner by nine minutes and 13 seconds in the famed rally, which this year was held exclusively in Peru.
Sunderland, winner of the 2017 Dakar bikes class, was initially assessed a one-hour penalty after organizers ruled he had deliberately caused a malfunction in his navigation system.
They found he had tampered with the system to avoid being the first rider to roll off in Tuesday’s eighth stage and ensure that one of his rivals would instead be tasked with opening the route.
But the penalty was withdrawn after a review.
Walkner started the day in third place, more than five and a half minutes behind the second-placed Quintanilla, and said afterward that he was fortunate to have leapfrogged the Chilean.
“I feel really sorry for Pablo, because normally he should have stayed on the podium and done an amazing job. I was honestly a little bit lucky with myself and not making mistakes on the last day of the race,” the Austrian was quoted as saying on Dakar’s official Web site.
“I had a good course from the back and just rode a normal stage, because I know that if you have to push in this desert with the strange light, everything is less visible and it can be really dangerous. The same dune on which Pablo crashed, I messed it up as well. I almost went down.”