KTMs Walkner 3rd on Dakar SS2
|Red Bull KTM Factory Racing riders have all delivered solid performances on stage two of the 2018 Dakar Rally with Matthias Walkner completing a superb day to finish third. Day one winner Sam Sunderland recovered from some early issues to finish seventh while Toby Price excelled towards the end of the special, going on to post the 10th fastest time.|
Day two at the 2018 Dakar Rally comprised a short 12km liaison section that led into a gruelling 267km timed special to the east of Pisco. The loop covered similar terrain to the previous day’s short stage – soft sand dunes and blind crests that proved both tiring for the riders and difficult to navigate.
Improving on his sixth-place result from day one, Matthias Walkner rode well in the heat of the desert. The Austrian moved through the field as the stage progressed to finish in third place, less than two minutes behind second-placed Adrien van Beveren. Walkner was pleased with his result and hopes to carry his pace into tomorrow’s longer stage.
Matthias Walkner: “Conditions were tough out there today. Following the cars made navigation a little easier but the stage was quite bumpy with all the tracks left by the vehicles in front. Personally, I’m feeling well, but I know we have a long way to go and things are only going to get harder. I know from experience that the race isn’t won on these first few days, in fact there are about 15 guys who are riding well and up near the front. I’ll keep on riding consistently, see how the next few stages go and aim to get to the rest day in a good position.”
Day one winner Sam Sunderland opened the road for the bikes. Although the motorcycles set off behind the cars today, navigation was still tricky and it was easy to make mistakes in the mountainous dunes of the stage. Placing seventh today means Sunderland will be looking to chase down the leaders on tomorrow’s 500km stage three.
Sam Sunderland: “I’m happy with how things went today. I would have liked to finish a little higher up the order, but it was never going to be easy being the first bike on the stage. I thought it wouldn’t be too bad following the cars but as it turned out the first 50 or 60km of the stage were in chaos. The car tracks went everywhere as they had struggled to climb some of the dunes. I ended up catching a few and riding in their dust. It was hot out there today, but I felt ok even after such a tough stage. I’ve got a good start position for tomorrow so we’ll see what that brings.”
Toby Price continues to get himself dialled in, both to his new KTM 450 RALLY and to competition in general. The Australian increased his pace as the day went on and moved up from his start position of 14th to 10th at the end of the stage.
Toby Price: “It was the first stage with proper navigation today and I did ok. The cars ahead of us were everywhere – I think their numbers must have been halved after today, there were so many of them side-lined. I managed to catch Laia quite early on, around the 40 or 50km mark, and we rode together for a while. Overall, I am feeling good and inside the top-10 is not a bad place to be. I just need to concentrate on my riding, navigation and hopefully I can pick up the pace a little as the race progresses.”
Despite finding the first half of the timed special tricky to navigate due to the many tracks left by both cars and bikes ahead of him, Antoine Meo still posted a very respectable time and placed 13th for the day. The Frenchman now prepares for the longer, even tougher, stages to come.
Antoine Meo: “That was not a bad day today, it was difficult early on with all the tracks from the cars but I managed to get through the navigation ok. I did make one mistake that cost me a couple of minutes but it wasn’t too bad. I was hoping to finish inside the top-10 today, but it’s still early days and there’s a lot of racing ahead of us. Now I have to look to tomorrow’s stage – it’s going to be a tough one so I need to stay focused and try to get another good result.”
Suffering a small issue that cost her a number of minutes, Laia Sanz still enjoyed her day. The Spaniard crossed the line in 24th and is fully fit and motivated for the hard days ahead.
Laia Sanz: “It was a nice day today, I love the sand and really enjoyed the stage. Toby caught me so it was nice to follow him and it made things a little safer. I did have to stop at one point as I had a small issue on the bike and I ended up losing about five or six minutes. It’s not too much of a problem because there is still a long way to go. The most important thing is I feel good and the bike is performing really well.”
Dakar rookie Luciano Benavides continued his excellent run today in what is an eye-opening event for the young Argentinian. Managing his navigation well and riding superbly across the huge sand dunes of the Peruvian desert, Benavides is enjoying his race and gaining the valuable experience needed to get to the finish of the world’s toughest cross-country rally.
Luciano Benavides: “This is my first Dakar and I am loving it, everything is incredible and I’m really enjoying my riding. The whole event is amazing, from the size of the organisation to the distance of the stages. Even having the helicopter following you is a real thrill – I feel really lucky to be here. My riding is going well and I’m hitting every waypoint. The dunes are quite difficult to ride – I’m used to the hard-pack of Argentina – but I’ll take it day-by-day and aim to get a good finish.”
Stage three of the 2018 Dakar Rally will be predominantly off-piste, covering a mixture of sand and dirt, across a salt-lake and through the canyons of the Peruvian desert. Riders go straight into a 296km special stage, which is then followed by a 208km liaison that heads north from Pisco to the coastal town of San Juan de Marcona.
Provisional Results Stage Two – 2018 Dakar Rally
1. Joan Barreda (ESP), Honda, 2:56:44
Provisional Standings after Stage Two – 2018 Dakar Rally
1. Joan Barreda (ESP), Honda, 3:18:36