Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Matthias Walkner has finished as third fastest on the opening stage of the 2023 Rallye du Maroc. Teammate Toby Price brought his KTM 450 RALLY home just over two minutes behind Walkner in fifth.
Stage one, the longest of this year’s event at 710 kilometers, proved to be a challenging one for all competitors. A long liaison from Agadir brought riders to the start of the 314-kilometer timed special that consisted of a mixture of rocky tracks, dunes, and technical sandy pistes leading to the finish at Zagora. With hot conditions and a long day in the saddle, it was an exhausting day of rally-raid.
Riding well and delivering a strong pace from start to finish, Matthias Walkner set off as the 10th rider into the special and soon moved himself into the top five on time. Staying consistent throughout, the Austrian was able to maintain his pace to the finish line, where he posted the third-quickest stage result. With bonus time awarded on tomorrow’s stage two for the first three riders opening the special, Walkner is well-placed to defend his third place in the provisional standings and hunt down the riders ahead of him.
Matthias Walkner: “Honestly, that was a really tough day today. I don’t know if it’s because I haven’t raced for a while, but I felt that today. We were up early, then straight into a long road section. The special itself was like we’re used to here in Morocco with a mixture of terrain, but the first part was especially tough with lots of stone-covered tracks. I had a good day on the bike, I think I was riding well and was able to stick to a good pace over all the different types of ground. I’m in a good position now to attack the rest of the race too. This has only been the first day, so I’m sure there will be more tough stages to come. I’ll take it day-by-day and see where I am at the finish.”
Fourth quickest on the rally’s opening prologue, Toby Price chose to start seventh into today’s timed special. The two-time Dakar Champion moved up to fifth in the rankings by kilometer 43 and was able to maintain that position to the flag. Price lies in fourth place overall, and will enjoy a strong start position for Sunday’s 396-kilometer stage two.
Toby Price: “Yeah, not a bad day for me today. We started off with a long liaison first and then it was into the special. It was really rough and rocky to begin with and the navigation wasn’t too bad. But after the refueling things got a little tougher with a small section of dunes and then some riverbeds that meant you really had to stay focused to stay on the right track. All in all, I had a good day. There’s still a long way to go and I’m in a good position overall, so we’ll see what the rest of the rally brings.”
Provisional Results – 2023 Rallye du Maroc, Stage 1
1. Ross Branch (BWA), Hero, 3:13:17
2. Pablo Quintanilla (CHL), Honda, 3:14:58 +1:41
3. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 3:17:35 +4:18
4. Luciano Benavides (ARG), Husqvarna, 3:19:00 +5:43
5. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 3:19:59 +6:42
Provisional Standings – 2023 Rallye du Maroc (after 1 of 5 stages)
1. Ross Branch (BWA), Hero, 4:08:42
2. Pablo Quintanilla (CHL), Honda, 4:11:23 +2:41
3. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 4:14:20 +5:38
4. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 4:16:04 +7:22
5. Luciano Benavides (ARG), Husqvarna, 4:16:15 +7:33