Daniel 'Chucky' Sanders
Daniel 'Chucky' Sanders is 28 years old and is an avid competitor in the FIM Cross-Country Rally World Championships and select Australian races. Daniel loved drinking milk as a baby, to the point where he would drink too much and vomit, hence the renowned nickname 'Chucky'. Chucky was born and raised in Victoria Australia on his family’s apple farm, where he spent majority of his time riding and building home-made tracks at the orchard. Daniel now endeavours to build on his rally and navigation skills in preparation for the Dakar Rally 2023, in his journey towards a Dakar victory.
Daniel opened up Dakar 2022 with all guns blazing, winning the prologue stage (1A) and the first overall stage (1B), which placed him in prime position early on. This highlighted him as a real threat in this year’s competition. Chucky maintained this high form, going on to win 3 out of the 6 stages in the race, placing him in 3rd overall, which was a great position heading into the last week. On the morning of Day 7 at 4:30am Daniel struck a U-turn kerb at 110kmph on the way to the stage. As Daniel was thrown from the bike into the Saudi Arabian kerb, his left-hand side was hugely impacted causing a lacerated kidney, a broken elbow, and internal haemorrhage. This ended his hopes of Dakar 2022 victory. In the recovery months Daniel had 3 surgeries and was keen to jump back on the bike. In July, Daniel competed in the 4 hour Hattah Desert Race and came out with a victory. With only 5 weeks of preparation, this really showed his fans he was ready for a comeback. Within a week after Hattah and testing in the USA, an X-ray revealed that he had rebroken his elbow and required 2 more surgeries with a bone graft and an extra durable plate.
2021 was Daniel's first year competing in the Dakar rally, riding for the KTM factory team providing him with valuable rally knowledge. He placed 4th overall in the bike category and took out the Rookie’s class for 2021, showing the world that he had a bright future in the sport. Daniel competed in the World Rally Championship in Kazakhstan, Silkway Rally, Morocco and Abu Dubai. He won his first stage in Silkway which gave him the confidence that he has what it takes. His first rally podium was at Morocco placing 3rd, also snatching a stage win on Day 4 and leading the rally out on the final day, only losing 20 seconds (a huge achievement for the Rookie navigator). Sitting 2nd in the World Rally Championship, he headed into the final race of the year in Abu Dubai, known for its ginormous sand dunes. He had a great battle with his good friend Matthias Walkner, until the last day where a miscalculated fuel stop cost him the race win and 2nd place in the Championship. In heartbreaking circumstances Chucky ran out of fuel with 2km left, leaving him to drain fuel from one tank to another and then to push the bike for the final few hundred metres. Overall, he still placed 3rd which was an immense effort for his first full season of rally.
Chucky started his season off with a wrist break after his outstanding 2019 year of dominance. He won the opening rounds in the E3 class at the AORC and came in 2nd overall both days. He competed in Round 3, but Round 4 was cancelled due to overnight downpour flooding making an unrideable track. The chaos of Covid then began to shut everything down, so Chucky started to look elsewhere to race. He had discussions with KTM headquarters and had the option to try racing in the USA or try out rally. He decided to give rally a go, as his passion for the desert and speed continued to grow. In September he travelled overseas for 3 months preparing for the biggest race of his career yet. At Viladoms rally station, located in Spain he learnt the basics of navigation with team manager and navigation guru Jordi Villadoms. Finishing 11th in his first rally at Andalucía, Spain and winning the final day in the competition, he got a taste of rally style before the big dance at Dakar.
Chucky’s second year with Husqvarna was the game changer. He changed to the FE501, and learnt so much about the bike, fine-tuning the team for 2019 making some big changes over the off-season, this was going to be the best season yet for Chucky! He won the E3 title in the AORC and took out the outright championship. Chucky had bad luck at the Hattah desert race this year as a massive thunderstorm hit the track and he flooded the bike whilst he had a massive lead at the halfway mark in the race. He was finally crowned the individual winner of the ISDE (Portugal), alongside leading his Aussie world trophy team to a 2nd place finish— thus making him arguably the fastest enduro rider in the world.
Chucky headed back to Australia with an enormous amount of motivation to lead the new Husqvarna Factory Racing team. He brought the team notoriety, winning the AORC in the Premier Class E2 and the Australian 4 Day Enduro race finishing 2nd overall. Chucky finally won Australia’s most demanding race the Hattah Desert Race and capped it off with the Australian Senior Trophy Team victory in Chile whilst placing a 3rd individual outright. He was super happy to finish on a high with the struggle from the year before.
Chucky headed to Europe with the RedBull KTM Factory Team to race the prestigious World Enduro Championship series. Daniel struggled throughout the season with limited international racing experience, language barriers and working with a different team. He finished 7th in the series and placed 2nd in Australia’s Senior ISDE team held in France. He flew home in between rounds to compete in the Hattah Desert race where he placed second. He mutually ended his contract at the end of 2017 and moved back to home soil.
Building on his previous years’ experience on the KTM team, Daniel won his first AORC outright title on a KTM 300 EXC where he won 10 out of 12 rounds. He finished 2nd in the Hattah Desert race behind team mate Tye Simmonds who just beat him by 11 seconds. Chucky gained another ISDE win in the E3 class held in Spain, just missing out on the 1stplace overall by 15 seconds. This placed him 2nd outright after a nail biting 6 day race.
2015 was Chucky’s first year on the KTM Australian Enduro team managed by Ben Grabham. Chucky finished 2nd in the AORC and competed in his first Hattah Desert race finishing 4th on a 300 two stroke which was impressive at such a fast race. He went on to win the individual E3 class at the ISDE held in Slovenia and placed 4th overall, later leading the Australian Junior team to victory, this was his first big results that showed the world what was to come. To end the year Chucky finished 3rdoutright at the A4DE in Tasmania and won the Wildwood Extreme Race.
Daniel was racing as a privateer with his father as the mechanic and coach. 2014 was his first big break, winning the U19 Australian Off-Road Championship (AORC) and placing 6th outright in the series. He then finished 3rd in the E3 class at the International Six Days Enduro (ISDE) held in Argentina and 19th overall. This race is known as the Olympics of off-road motorcycle racing and was Chucky’s first big international race. Chucky then landed his first position on a factory team in Australia the following year, meaning he was able to race as a job.