Red Bull KTM Factory Racing have successfully completed the opening stage of the 2020 Andalucia Rally. Sam Sunderland posted the best result from the team, finishing seventh-fastest, six-and-a-half minutes off the stage winner. Matthias Walkner also claimed a solid result in 12th, unfortunately losing several minutes in the last few kilometers of the stage. Australians Toby Price and KTM Factory Racing’s Daniel Sanders had the challenge of opening the day’s stage, subsequently losing a little time, finishing in 17th and 19th respectively.

Marking Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s first competitive outing since the Dakar in January, the 2020 Andalucia Rally represents the perfect opportunity for the riders and team to get back up to speed and test new parts ahead of the upcoming 2021 Dakar, next January.

Tuesday saw riders compete in the short, nine-kilometer Super Special Stage, the results from which determined the start order for Wednesday’s opening stage. It was in fact the two Australians who took control on the slippery Spanish dirt tracks of the prologue, posting the exact same time on their KTM 450 RALLY machines. Toby Price was awarded the win, ahead of rally rookie Daniel Sanders in second.

Stage one featured 240 kilometers of timed special, split into two sections of 130km and 110km respectively. The terrain, similar to that of the super special, was made up of fast, dirt tracks that proved more slippery than anticipated for all riders and also created a lot of dust, especially when following and making overtaking difficult.

Thankfully coming away unscathed from a crash in the Super Special Stage, Sam Sunderland was pushed down the order and started as the 20th rider into stage one. Immediately catching his slower rivals ahead, the 2019 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Champion was forced to contend with clouds of dust raised by the bikes in front. Focusing on his navigation, Sam was able to gradually make up time and completed the day in a solid seventh place.

Sam Sunderland: “Today’s stage was obviously the first for all of us here in Andalucia and so we didn’t really know what to expect in terms of the race and the navigation side. It started well for me, but then there were some issues with the road book and GPS, which made things confusing. After falling in the Prologue I started today in 20th, so ended up spending a lot of time in the dust from the guys in front. Despite that I’m happy with how I rode, didn’t have any dramas and will hopefully have a better day tomorrow in cleaner air.”

As the fourth rider into the day’s stage, Matthias Walkner was able to immediately push from the start, chasing down the three riders ahead of him, including teammates Price and Sanders. Maintaining good speed throughout the two-part special, the Austrian rider soon found himself at the front of the pack and opening the stage. Despite losing time in the closing kilometers of the stage, Walkner was the first rider to reach the finish posting the 12th quickest time.

Matthias Walkner: “It’s been a good day of racing for me, I really enjoyed it. The first 80 or 90 kilometers went really well, but then I started to catch up to the dust from the riders in front. There were some issue with the road book with a couple of mistakes and it seemed the correct route was blocked in a couple of places. After kilometer 200 or so I opened the stage almost to the end, but there were a few more mistakes near the finish and I ended up losing another few minutes on the leaders. It’s frustrating, but on the whole, it feels great to be back racing. The bike is working really well and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

Toby Price immediately showed his intentions in Spain by posting the fastest time in the prologue. As such, the 2020 Dakar Rally podium finisher was given the unenviable task of opening the 240-kilometer stage one. Although his strategy was to avoid any dust, navigation proved to be a real challenge with some errors arising with the road book and GPS. As first to encounter the problems, Price lost time to his rivals, ultimately finishing 17th on the stage and lies 17th overall going into stage two.

Toby Price: “Day one has been a little frustrating, the organization informed us of a few changes before the stage, but they didn’t really give that much detail so it was tricky to follow things especially from the front. I opened the special for probably 80 or 90 percent and stayed on two wheels, so I’m happy about my navigation and riding. The body feels good and the bike is performing well and as always, the team are doing a great job. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.”

Making his rally debut in Andalucia, Daniel Sanders impressed immediately equaling his teammate and compatriot’s time on the Super Special Stage. Second to enter stage one, Sanders performed well, running with the more experienced members of his team and the rally and making the minimum of mistakes on the tricky to navigate route. Posting the 19th quickest stage time, the 26-year-old Australian is feeling confident and looks forward to day two.

Daniel Sanders: “Well, my first day racing rally was certainly a tough one! I started off feeling a little uncomfortable, but by the halfway mark I was able to find my rhythm, keep a good pace and concentrate on the road book. I made a couple of little mistakes along the way but all-in-all it was good and a useful learning experience. There’s three more days to go, so the goal is to make the finish safe and try and gain as much knowledge and experience as possible.”

Stage two of the 2020 Andalucia Rally will see competitors race a total of 365 kilometers, again including two special stages – a new 140km loop to the north east of the bivouac, and a repeat of the 130km opening special from stage one.

Provisional Results Stage One – 2020 Andalucia Rally
1. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, 3:21:17
2. Joan Barreda (ESP), Honda, 3:24:32 +3:15
3. Lorenzo Santolino (ESP), Sherco, 3:24:36 +3:19
4. Xavier de Soultrait (FRA), Husqvarna, 3:26:25 +5:08
5. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), Yamaha, 3:26:57 +5:40
Other KTM
7. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 3:27:56 +6:39
12. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 3:32:05 +10:48
17. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 3:38:40 +17:23
19. Daniel Sanders (AUS), KTM, 3:41:32 +20:15

Provisional Standings (after stage one) – 2020 Andalucia Rally
1. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, 3:28:00
2. Joan Barreda (ESP), Honda, 3:31:14 +3:14
3. Lorenzo Santolino (ESP), Sherco, 3:31:18 +3:18
4. Xavier de Soultrait (FRA), Husqvarna, 3:33:08 +5:08
5. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), Yamaha, 3:33:36 +5:36
Other KTM
7. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 3:34:55 +6:55
12. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 3:38:38 +10:38
17. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 3:45:09 +17:09
19. Daniel Sanders (AUS), KTM, 3:48:01 +20:01