Rally

Matthias Walkner third on Dakar’s technical Stage Six

Matthias Walkner – Dakar 2019

Matthias Walkner – Dakar 2019 (Image: Marcin Kin)

Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Matthias Walkner has ridden to an excellent third place finish on an extremely technically demanding, and physically exhausting, stage six of the 2019 Dakar Rally. Toby Price followed his team-mate home in fourth, with Luciano Benavides once again finishing inside the top 10 in ninth.

With the rally now past the halfway stage and heading back towards the host city of Lima, stage six covered some of the same ground as previous stages. An extremely long day for all competitors, the 838 kilometres total distance included a 336-kilometre timed special. The route took riders through the characteristic soft sand dunes of the Ica desert before subjecting them to faster, more open rocky pistes. A strong wind towards the end of the stage only added to the challenge.

Putting in a superb ride in the tough conditions, Matthias Walkner was able to navigate his way successfully through the stage despite riding alone for the majority of the day. His third position, just over four minutes from the leading time, moves the Austrian up to sixth in the provisional overall standings.

Matthias Walkner: “I had a good ride today, navigation was really tricky, but I had some lines in front of me, so I just had to stay focused and use my head a little. I rode the majority of the day alone and that can be tough sometimes, but I’m pleased with my riding and the result, especially as the overall pace was so high. Overall, it has been a good day.”

Just 27 seconds adrift from team-mate Walkner, Toby Price continues to battle on despite the increasing pain in his wrist. The Australian’s fourth place result puts him in an ideal start position for Monday’s stage seven. Price lies third in the provisional standings.

Toby Price: “It’s been a really tough day today. My wrist is hurting more and more as the race goes on and it’s making things uncomfortable out there. I’ll keep cruising on though and I’m still in the race, it’s just a bit more like survival mode at the moment. Nevertheless, third overall with four stages left to race is encouraging. The goal is the same – make it safely to the finish – so I’ll keep on pushing on tomorrow.”

Impressing again with another top-10 finish, Luciano Benavides has really come into form on the 2019 Dakar Rally. Riding intelligently, the Argentinian claimed ninth on stage six and sits just one place outside of the top 10 overall with four stages left to race.

Luciano Benavides: “Today was a really long day and very windy. I eased off a little at the end because of the conditions and didn’t want to make a mistake and lose time. I feel good physically and mentally and the main goal is still to get a good finish. I am lying in 11th place at the moment and I would love to break into the top 10. I am really enjoying the rally because I’m learning all the time and I can feel my pace and confidence improving as my experience increases.”

Following his win on the previous day of racing, Sam Sunderland was given the unenviable task of opening today’s technical and gruelling stage. The British rider lead out from start to finish but unfortunately lost time overall to the following pack. Sunderland lies seventh overall, but vows to push his hardest right to the finish.

Sam Sunderland: “I was up against it a little today. After stopping to help Goncalves on the fifth stage I had no markers to set my pace and by winning the stage I upset my overall strategy for the race a little. As we know, opening the stage is always a disadvantage and today, with harsh conditions and tricky navigation, it cost me a lot of time. Personally for me, I was pleased with my riding and how I managed the navigation out front, that was really encouraging. I lost a little time after clipping a rock and damaging my rear brake, but the team were great and replaced that at the neutralisation. The race isn’t over yet though and I’m going to keep fighting. It’s Dakar, it’s always a challenge.”

Claiming her best result of this year’s rally to date, Laia Sanz is feeling good and enjoyed her performance on stage six. Using her skills and experience, Laia was able to make up good time at the beginning of the timed special where accurate navigation was required. Completing the stage in 15th elevates the Spaniard to 16th in the provisional overall standings.

Laia Sanz: “I felt really good first thing in the dunes today. I was able to gain on the guys in front and that is always nice for your confidence. The second part of the stage opened out a lot and was a lot faster. I was riding on my own and it gets difficult to judge your pace, the faster sections are not my favourite either. My navigation was accurate all day and I think I improved in the overall too, so I’m happy.”

Unfortunately, KTM Factory Racing’s Mario Patrao fell early on in the day’s stage and was airlifted by helicopter to the hospital in Lima. Mario was conscious and will be undergoing further tests to ascertain the extent of his injuries. We wish Mario a fast and full recovery.

Stage seven of the 2019 Dakar Rally comprises the first looped timed special of the event, with riders covering 323 kilometres against the clock near the town of San Juan de Marcona. With the stage again covering previously used terrain, the tracks from previous days will make good navigation extremely important.

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