Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Matthias Walkner, Toby Price, and Kevin Benavides have all successfully completed the first proper day of racing at the 2022 Dakar Rally – a challenging 514 kilometer looped stage from Ha’il to Ha’il. Managing to avoid the worst of the costly navigational issues that affected many of the leading riders, Matthias Walkner finished third fastest, eight-and-a-half minutes down on the day’s stage winner. Kevin Benavides ended the stage in 14th with Toby Price placing 22nd overall. Tech3 KTM Factory Racing’s Danilo Petrucci enjoyed a positive day to finish 13th.
As the 11th rider to start today’s special stage following his fifth place finish in the event’s opening prologue, Matthias Walkner pushed hard from the start and, throughout the opening six waypoints, made up good time on the riders ahead of him. Running into a navigational issue mid-way between waypoints six and seven, Walkner was able to quickly find his way and end the stage in a strong third place.
Matthias Walkner: “It was a good day but super tricky with the navigation today. The rain certainly made the sand harder and things a little more challenging, but a few of us worked together, riding in a fast, strong group at the end of the stage to make sure that we arrived at the finish in a good way. In the morning the rain made the sand firmer and really nice to ride on, but at the end of the day it was much more challenging and harder to ride on. Although today was a hard day, it’s only the first day of the rally. We saw it last year, you can lose or win 30 minutes or so, but at this early stage in the race that doesn’t mean too much.”
While the first true stage of the 2022 Dakar Rally was a good one for Matthias Walkner, for teammate Kevin Benavides it proved to be a highly challenging one. Following his third fastest time in yesterday’s prologue, Kevin opted to start today’s stage as the 13th rider, which for the majority of the special proved to be hugely beneficial. However mid-way between waypoints six and seven, Kevin became one of many riders to make navigational errors, ultimately leading to a loss of time and an eventual 14th place finish.
Kevin Benavides: “The only thing I can really say is that today was not the best first day for me. There was a lot of confusion surrounding one note on the road book, which caused a lot of different riders, myself included, to make a mistake. It was such a frustrating situation. Finally, I was able to find the correct track, but of course I lost a lot of time. The important thing is that I felt really good on my bike. There’s a lot of kilometers still to race, so it’s important to stay positive and go again tomorrow, and push for good results.”
In stark contrast to his winning ride on stage one of last year’s Dakar Rally, Toby Price unfortunately endured a hugely frustrating opening stage. As one of the many riders to run into the same navigational issue, the Australian would eventually complete the special 47 minutes down on countryman and stage winner Daniel Sanders.
Toby Price: “The stage was a bit of a rough one for me today. There was one note that just didn’t seem to add up properly, didn’t quite make sense to me, so I ended up getting lost for 45, maybe 50, minutes. So, not a good way to start the rally. But it’s early days and let’s see what happens. No crashes, so that’s good, but a costly navigation mistake. I’ll keep my head down and keep at it and see what tomorrow brings.”
Faring well during his first ever Dakar Rally special stage, Danilo Petrucci was able to benefit from his starting position of 33rd and follow the tracks ahead of him, ending end the stage 13th fastest. Arriving at the troublesome waypoints after the leading riders, the Italian was able to avoid issues and went on to enjoy a notably positive result.
Danilo Petrucci: “I’m really, really happy to finish my first real Dakar stage. I was so nervous at the start. Generally, all went ok for me but the 120 kilometers after the refueling seemed really, really long for me, especially with the big dunes.”
Press release written using provisional official results available at time of publishing, which might be subject to change.
Provisional Results Stage One (overall) – 2022 Dakar Rally
1. Daniel Sanders (AUS), GASGAS, 4:38:40
2. Pablo Quintanilla (CHL), Honda, 4:41:47
3. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM) 4:49:46
4. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), Yamaha, 4:51:26
5. Mason Klein (USA), KTM, 4:53:14
13. Danilo Petrucci (ITA), KTM, 5:11:09
14. Kevin Benavides (ARG), KTM, 5:15:02
22. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 5:25:57