Mar 29, 2018
|Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Matthias Walkner has won the fifth and final stage of the 2018 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. Sam Sunderland claimed third and retained his second place in the overall standings. Toby Price finished fourth on the stage to move up one place in the overall standings to seventh.|
The fifth timed stage of the 2018 Desert Challenge covered 218.57km, with riders eventually completing the rally at the famous Yas Marina F1 Circuit in Abu Dhabi. Setting off in groups of 10, motocross style, it was always going to be difficult to make up any time on the other riders.
Sam Sunderland led the first group away and rode at the front for the initial half of the stage. It was Matthias Walkner however that took the lead after the refuelling point, fighting a close battle with rival Kevin Benavides for the win. With the lead changing multiple times over the last 50km, it was the Austrian Walkner who eventually crossed the line first, just a couple of bike lengths ahead.
With times being so tight in the overall standings, Walkner’s win wasn’t quite enough for him to finish the rally on the podium. Despite this, the reigning Dakar Champion was still happy with the result and his performance in the Liwa Desert.
Matthias Walkner: “The final day’s racing has been really fun – I’m happy to take the stage win after such a good fight. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make up enough time to get onto the podium today, but in general the rally has gone really well. The mass-start this morning had everyone riding together for the first 100km, there was a lot of dust and it was hard to pull away. On the second half of the stage it opened up a lot and I was able to get out in front. Kevin Benavides and myself had a great battle over the last 50km, riding together and swapping the lead many times. I managed to cross the line three metres or so ahead but of course it wasn’t enough to steal third overall. I came into the rally hoping for a top-five, so fourth overall whilst feeling very comfortable on the bike is not a bad result at all. Things look good for the rest of the year.”
Keeping a fast and consistent pace on the final stage, whilst staying out of trouble, was enough for Sam Sunderland to retain his second place in the event standings. Missing out on the overall victory by just five-minutes after racing for over 1,300km is a great result for the Brit. Especially after a crash on stage four that resulted in some damage to his bike.
Sam Sunderland: “Second overall, especially after my crash at the Dakar is a really good result. It has felt great to be back on my bike and racing again. I’m a little disappointed with how the rally has gone, with no prologue to set the starting order it was always going to be difficult to stay ahead. The mass-start today went well but riding in such a big group can be dangerous so I just tried to stay out of trouble and not make any mistakes. The bike and the team have been perfect throughout the rally, and apart from my mistake on yesterday’s stage my riding and navigation have been good. It’s encouraging and so I look forward to the next race and I’ll try to go one better.”
A crash on stage two that resulted in a damaged fuel-line put Toby Price on the back foot for the remainder of the rally. Despite the set-back, the Australian pressed on, posting some excellent stage times even while riding injured. A strong fourth on the final stage was enough to move Price one place higher in the standings to seventh.
Toby Price: “I’m happy with how the day went today. Overall, seventh at the end of the rally is not where I had planned to finish, but after my crash earlier in the week I am glad to be here at the finish in one piece. The bike has been perfect throughout the rally and even with the mass start today I was able to gain a little time and move up one spot in the overall. For now, I plan to rest a little and then prepare for the next rally in Morocco. If I can learn a little from my mistakes and stay on two-wheels everything should be good.”
The next rally to be contested by Red Bull KTM Factory Racing will be the Merzouga Rally in Morocco held from the 15 – 20 April.
Provisional Results Stage Five – 2018 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge
1. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 2:46:40
Provisional Final Standings – 2018 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge after 5 of 5 stages
1. Pablo Quintanilla (CHL), Husqvarna, 16:51:11
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