Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Matthias Walkner remains in second place in the provisional overall Dakar Rally standings after finishing third on a significantly shortened stage six of the event. Toby Price finished ninth after close to one hour of racing against the clock, with Kevin Benavides just over one minute behind him in 15th. Stage five winner Danilo Petrucci completed the 100-kilometer section in 40th following a small crash.
The initially planned 404-kilometer special on today's stage six was set to see the bike class competitors repeat the route used by the cars and trucks yesterday. With the terrain heavily cut up by the passing of the previous day’s vehicles, the organizers decided to cut the stage short on safety grounds and take the day’s results from the first refueling point, at just over the 100-kilometer mark.
Matthias Walkner came into today’s stage knowing that the rough terrain would pose a huge challenge to all riders and the chance of some unexpected dangers was very high. As such, the experienced Austrian took extra care on the heavily rutted ground and aimed for a safe finish to the stage. Despite his caution, Walkner was third fastest to the refueling point at kilometer 100, where the stage was eventually stopped. Matthias now sits second overall at the close of the first week of racing, trailing the current rally leader by under three minutes.
Matthias Walkner: “Obviously it was a short day today and the tracks were really rough. You had to focus a lot and really take care – it was also very physical with the ground being cut up so badly. I’m a little disappointed that they let us race the stage only to cancel it at 100 kilometers, but I suppose it was the same for everyone. Thankfully it all went ok, and I reached the finish safely. We have a rest day tomorrow that I’m really looking forward to, so I’ll try and recharge my batteries and then attack once again next week for the final six stages.”
As the fifth rider to enter the stage, Toby Price also soon realized that extra care was needed to avoid a crash. Despite a couple of close calls, the two-time Dakar champion safely arrived at the end of the special in eighth place. Lying 12th in the provisional overall standings, Toby trails the leader by just under 40 mins. However, with the toughest, most technical six days of the event left to race, the Australian star is confident of being able to close that deficit.
Toby Price: “It was quite a short stage today. The cars and trucks had all passed through there yesterday, so we were on their stage today. I think we all went into the stage with a bit of a feeling that it wasn’t going to work and yeah, a lot of the dangers were worse than listed on the roadbook and there were a few extra hazards out there too. I think they made the right call to stop it at 100 kilometers – I had a couple of scary moments myself out there. I’m happy to reach the rest day safely, not quite the overall position I would have liked, but there’s still a long way to go, so I’ll give my all and see what I can do next week.”
Similarly to his teammates, Kevin Benavides took a measured approach to today’s stage, ultimately completing the 100 kilometers in 15th place, less than six minutes down on the eventual winner. The reigning Dakar Champion still sits inside the top 10 overall going into week two, and with the expected rougher terrain and more technical navigation suiting the Argentinian’s strengths, he’s looking forward to delivering a strong ride on the final six days in Saudi.
Kevin Benavides: “I started off really well today but then came across Ross Branch who had had a crash early on, so I thought maybe it would be a good idea to ease off a little. We arrived at the refueling and after that I tried my best to push on but then they stopped the stage early and took the results from 100 kilometers. I think it was the right decision as the tracks were really rough and quite dangerous for us. Finishing 15th today gives me a good position to start the second week, so I’m happy.”
Following on from his outstanding stage win on day six – the first ever for a former MotoGP rider – Tech3 KTM Factory Rcinag's Danilo Petrucci was given the unenviable task of opening today’s heavily damaged special. The likeable Italian did an extremely good job, even after a crash in the opening few kilometers resulted in a few cuts and bruises. Arriving at the finish in 40th place, just under 13 minutes down, Danilo was pleased with how he had handled the all-new experience and now looks forward to a well-earned day off the bike.
Danilo Petrucci: “Today was the first time in my career that I have opened a stage, and I think it was on one of the toughest stages of this year’s rally because it was used for the cars and trucks yesterday. The team did a good job of warning me about the dangers, but I was still surprised to find a big step in the middle of the track. I had quite a heavy crash and the rider behind me crashed too, but luckily, I was able to continue. I think they made the right decision and now I’m looking forward to having one day of rest before continuing on Sunday.”
Provisional Results Stage Six (overall) – 2022 Dakar Rally
1. Daniel Sanders (AUS), GASGAS, 51:43
2. Sam Sunderland (GBR), GASGAS, 54:09 +2:26
3. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 54:19 +2:36
4. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI), Honda, 54:58 +3:15
5. Ricky Brabec (USA), Honda, 55:02 +3:19
9. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 55:59 +4:16
15. Kevin Benavides (ARG), KTM, 57:14 +5:31
40. Danilo Petrucci (ITA), KTM, 1:04:27 +12:44
Provisional Standings – 2022 Dakar Rally after 6 of 12 stages
1. Sam Sunderland (GBR), GASGAS, 19:55:59
2. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 19:58:38 +2:39
3. Daniel Sanders (AUS), GASGAS, 20:01:34 +5:35
4. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), Yamaha, 20:03:42 +7:43
5. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI), Honda, 20:13:43 +17:44
8. Kevin Benavides (ARG), KTM, 20:20:55 +24:56
12. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 20:35:08 +39:09