Rally

Top five Stage 10 finish for Walkner at Dakar Rally

Matthias Walkner

Matthias Walkner

Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Matthias Walkner has secured a fifth-place finish on stage 10 of the 2021 Dakar Rally.

On the short but technically demanding day all three factory riders placed inside the top 10 with Daniel Sanders one place behind Walkner in sixth and Sam Sunderland completing the special as eighth fastest.

Totalling 583km, day 10 of the rally took competitors south from Neom towards AlUla. An 83km liaison led the riders to the start of the 342km special stage where they then faced similar terrain to Tuesday’s tough stage nine, with a mixture of sandy tracks and rocky pistes twisting through canyons and valleys. Although one of the shortest at this year’s race, the day’s special still proved incredibly taxing for all, with its high temperatures and complicated navigation.

In placing fifth on today’s stage, Matthias Walkner moves himself up to 14th in the provisional overall standings – an impressive achievement considering the Austrian rider’s troubles early in the race. Despite his deficit to the rally leaders, Matthias continues to push on each and every stage, delivering strong performances, and hopes to finish the final two stages of the event on a high.

Matthias Walkner: “Yeah the stage today wasn’t meant to be so tricky, but it seems like all Dakar stages now are really, really tough. We have to focus so hard not just on what is in front of us, but the navigation too. I think everyone today suffered with the dust as well. As the rally nears the finish everyone is pushing that little bit harder, a mistake with your road book can cost you a few minutes and drop you down the order, but it’s so easy to have a crash and lose even more time. I enjoyed the stage, and the scenery was amazing again, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

Making a couple of navigation errors on stage nine, Sam Sunderland was able to use his experience to quickly get back on track and subsequently reach the finish line as eighth fastest. Currently fourth in the provisional overall classification, Sunderland will enjoy a strong start position for Thursday’s stage 11 that includes the longest timed special of the event at 511km.

Sam Sunderland

Sam Sunderland

Sam Sunderland: “It was a tough stage for me today, I felt good out there but made a couple of mistakes and lost quite a bit of time. The road book is so complicated this year and it’s not so easy to stick to the right track. I was leading my group earlier and then at one moment, I couldn’t find the way. I tried to follow the caps in the road book but ended up riding around in circles for a couple of minutes. I’m doing my best and this year has certainly proved to be tough for all of us. I’m fit and the bike is good, so hoping for a better day tomorrow.”

Day 10 at the Dakar was a valuable learning experience for KTM Factory Racing’s Daniel Sanders. A couple of navigation issues early on resulted in the young Australian being caught by a number of his rivals. Forced to complete the stage behind them, the team’s junior rider settled for a safe finish, conserving himself and his KTM 450 RALLY for tomorrow’s grueling special. Claiming another top-10 stage result in sixth, Sanders lies seventh in the overall standings and as top rookie class contender, by well over two and a half hours.

Daniel Sanders: “It was rough going out there today. Not the best stage for me, I got lost a couple of times early on and that cost me some minutes. Towards the end there, Skyler came past me and I was in his dust then and decided to settle for a safe finish. I managed to conserve a bit of energy over those last 100 kilometres as we have got a really long day tomorrow and it’s going to be a tough one.”

At 511km, the timed section on stage 11 is the longest of the rally. Leading from AlUla to Yanbu, the route will cover a variety of terrain, with a section of dunes mid-stage lasting for close to 100km. Accurate navigation through this area will prove vital in earning a good stage time.

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