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Sam Sunderland’s KTM 450 RALLY | Factory Ride

We take a look at the KTM 450 RALLY of 2017 Dakar Champion, Sam Sunderland.

THE RIDER – Sam Sunderland

It feels great to win Dakar. I hope it raises the profile of the sport in the UK. The guys around me in the team kept me focused on the job. I have my suspension set so it’s soft and fast on the first part and then hard and slow in the last part. We do a lot of testing and often make small changes. It’s hard to make it work well in all terrains and at different fuel levels, so it’s always a bit of a compromise. The engine and reliability is insane if you think about distances, temperatures and terrains.

With the 450 Rally, I have a really good feeling with the engine power. It’s really strong on top for high speed but I find it easy to get traction on the slippery mountain roads. The smooth bottom end power helps me a lot. Everyone wants to go faster. I think the easiest place to make up time is when you sit on the back mudguard wide open for 30 minutes, but it’s a fine line between top speed, bottom power and reliability.

There’s a lot of difference between the 450 RALLY and the EXC. There are things we need to race rally such as the road book and navigation tower. We also need bigger tanks, but it’s not just a case of strapping on another tank. We need to keep in mind the time spent on the bike for comfort, especially with Dakar getting more technical. So it needs to handle well and there is a lot of work from the KTM guys to make the bike the best it can be. When you look under the seat, it’s really a work of art how everything fits into place.

THE MECHANIC – Christian Petershofer

Under the seat, there is a special case made of carbon where all his tools are perfectly fitted. Ideally, he won’t need them during the race. After removing those, we remove the front tanks all with the same tool, a 6mm allen key. Doing this, you only have to take care of the wiring and fuel pipes, and after a couple of minutes, you have stripped down everything to make the first optical check of the major parts.

Also with the 6mm allen, you can remove the rear tank allowing you to remove/change the rear shock and engine cover. Using the front and rear stand to lift up the bike, we can change the whole wheel (rims and tires) and service the brakes. Apart from changing the air filter, that’s the standard procedure we do normally after every stage of a Rally.

Every rider has their own suspension setting and handlebars, depending on riders riding style and physical dimensions. But there is nothing really special on Sam’s bike. The factory bikes are very similar to the KTM 450 Rally Replica that KTM produces in low volumes and which anyone can by at KTM Dealerships.

But in the general, it’s the navigation tower and the way bigger tanks with around 35 litres. Sam always knows the direction he wants to go. Normally we go to a limit and then one step back when working on a new setting. His comments are very clear and we always know what to do. Compared to the KTM 450 Rally Replica we only have a map select switch mounted and small parts like ‘donuts’ on the handlebar.
THE TEAM MANAGER – Alex Doringer

I think KTM is such a dominant force in Rally because of experience and the passion of each individual in the team. I think out new, younger generation riders are improving the team with new input. I don’t think it’s important where the riders come from, but Toby for example benefits from his desert racing experience in Australia.

Sam trained in Dubai, but I think our program with a full season in the FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championships and our second home base in Spain really help as well. Sam was not happy on his previous team because the pressure for him to perform was extremely high. He really wanted to come to KTM and to show our trust in him, we extended his contract to 2019 before Dakar this year.

The core team, and also the group we have in Spain are working more or less the whole year to get to Dakar. Luckily we have a situation where if somebody should miss from illness or other reasons, we have someone ready to step in for every position. Sam is a very professional athlete. He works hard to make improvements. In rally, if you stay fit, you gain more experience and become calmer the older you get.

with Dylan Ruddy

Sam Sunderland Sam Sunderland Sam Sunderland