Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Matthias Walkner has arrived in Russia to race the second round of the 2021 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship, the Silk Way Rally. This year’s event, held across the two countries of Russia and Mongolia, will challenge riders with 10 stages of racing, covering more than 5,400km of tough, varied terrain. Walkner’s teammates, Sam Sunderland, Toby Price, and Kevin Benavides, will unfortunately not participate in the race, as they are all still recovering from injury.
Starting in Omsk, Russia on July 2, and travelling to Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia, the 2021 Silk Way Rally is unquestionably one of the toughest events on the FIM Cross-Country Rallies calendar. Riders will face a total of 5,442km of riding, of which 3,418km will be timed special stage ridden against the clock. The first three stages are held in the forests and dirt tracks of Russia, before competitors then cross into Mongolia where the remaining seven days, including a grueling marathon stage, cover the fast, open tracks of the Mongolian Steppes before the finish on July 11.
With the Silk Way being classed as a marathon rally, the usual points awarded at the finish are multiplied by 1.5. This makes it hugely important to secure a good result at the end of the event in order to be in the running for FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship honors at the end of the season.
Although this will be the second time the event has welcomed motorcycles, the race will be all-new for Matthias Walkner. Recovering from injury when the team first contested the Silk Way back in 2019, Walkner will make his debut appearance at the event this week, but will be looking to immediately get up to speed and stay in contention for the podium places. Feeling fresh from his runner-up finish at Rally Kazakhstan, the Austrian star is focused on earning a top result at Silk Way and, despite the challenge ahead, hopes to rely on his speed and experience to carry him to the top of the results sheets.
Matthias Walkner: “I’m really looking forward to the Silk Way Rally. It’s a new challenge for me and it definitely looks like it will be a tough one. I’m feeling good after Kazakhstan, and I was pleased with how I rode there, so hopefully I can keep up that sort of pace at this next event. The bike performed really well at round one of the championship, and we have made a couple of small changes to the suspension settings that should help with the different stages we’ll see over the 10 stages at Silk Way. It’s a really long race, but an important one, especially for the championship, so hopefully I can stay consistent, get some good results under my belt early on, and then keep pushing into the second week.”
Jordi Viladoms – KTM Rally Team Manager: “It’s a shame that three of our riders will not be able to ride at the Silk Way Rally – we hope to see Sam, Toby, and Kevin back racing as soon as possible. Nevertheless, Matthias put in a great performance in Kazakhstan, and I truly believe he has what it takes to do well in Russia and Mongolia, despite it being his first time riding there. The team have some experience of the event from the 2019 race, so we know a little of what to expect. The three stages in Russia can be quite tricky in the forests and the weather can also have a huge impact, especially if it rains. On the Mongolia side, we know it can be fast with technical navigation, but it also looks like this year will have more sand and some sections of dunes, so it will be interesting to see what happens. Hopefully, after a strong finish in Kazakhstan, we can adapt to this different terrain and have a good result here.”
The Silk Way Rally commences in Omsk with Stage One on Friday, July 2, followed by a further nine days of racing before the finish in Ulaanbaatar on July 11.