Sam Sunderland Wins Merzouga Rally 2013
Claiming victory on the sixth and final stage of the Merzouga Rally, Team HRC’s Sam Sunderland secured his first ever rally win
The sixth and final day of the Merzouga Rally started with a spectacular “Le Mans” style start in front of the Erg Rissani. Almost 80 riders jumped on their bikes and went straight into the soft sand of the Erg, before riding along the lake of Merzouga and the big dunes of the Erg Chebbi.
Sam Sunderland, Helder Rodrigues and Gerard Farres were the first riders to cross the finish line in Merzouga.
With today’s result Sunderland won the Merzouga rally 2013 both in the overall as well as in the Rally category.
“It was a great race and a great result for me and Honda,” told Sunderland. “I enjoyed the “Le Mans style” start this morning, it was something unique and despite it was a shorter stage today, we had a hard job in the soft sand of the Erg Rissani.”
“To finish like this is the best preparation I could have hoped for the Dakar Rally. It’s given me a huge boost in confidence. We’ve just got to keep working and moving in the right direction.”
Behind Sam on the second step of the podium was his teammate Helder Rodrigues – the winner of the first edition of Merzouga rally in 2010.
“I won the first edition of Merzouga Rally and I have to say that the race has grown and improved a lot,” confirmed Rodrigues. “It’s a rally studied mainly for bikes with technical navigation, lots of dunes but also a good combination of varied terrain. I’m happy for this result and for the Honda squad.”
Completing the top three Yamaha’s Olivier Pain finished third.
“I aimed at a better result but after I crashed on stage three I preferred to ride more conservative so, all in all, I’m happy,” admitted Pain. “It was a very good preparation for Dakar and I’m happy to have discovered the Merzouga Rally”.
Ending stage six in 23rd place, OWL Racing’s Oliver Lloyd ended the rally in a highly impressive 12th overall.
“The mass start was really exciting,” said Lloyd. “I knew there would be a big risk of getting tangled up in the soft dunes so I tried to ride my own race and get through to the finish in one piece.
“The stage was good and I am so happy to finish in 12th on the hardest event I have done this year and in great company.”
Capping off an impressively successful ride in his debut rally, Ireland’s Gordon Clarke ended stage six in 23rd to secure 16th overall in the final classification.
RESULTS – STAGE SIX
1 SUNDERLAND SAM 58:00
2 RODRIGUES Helder 58:05
3 FARRES GUELL Gerard 1:00:50
4 BRUCY Arnold 1:01:38
5 VILADOMS Jordi 1:03:03
6 KNUIMAN HENK 1:03:05
7 ZACCHETTI Cesare 1:05:24
8 GIMENO Antonio 1:05:46
9 PAIN OLIVIER 1:05:50
10 MANCINI ANDREA 1:05:58
1. SAM SUNDERLAND (HONDA HRC RALLY) 14:25:49; 2. HELDER RODRIGUES (HONDA HRC RALLY) 14:41:31; 3. OLIVIER PAIN (YAMAHA MOTOR) 15:03:10; 4. JORDI VILADOMS (GAS GAS) 15:21:30; 5. HENK KNUIMAN (TEAM HENK KNUIMAN) 16:29:37… 12. OLIVER LLOYD (OWL RACING); 16 GORDON CLARKE (YOUNG AND OLD IRELAND) 20:36:33…