Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Toby Price has completed a hot and tough 2023 Sonora Rally in fourth place overall. In doing so, the Australian has successfully increased his advantage at the top of the FIM World Rally-Raid Championship standings to seven points. Matthias Walkner and Kevin Benavides, both returning to competition from injury, finished fifth and 12th respectively at the Mexican event.
Although the fifth and final special of this year’s Sonora Rally was relatively short at 139 kilometers, it still posed a huge challenge to all riders with its fast sandy tracks. First into the stage following his win on day four, Toby Price knew he’d have to attack the special to stay ahead of his chasing rivals.
Giving his all, Toby clocked in as second fastest all the way to the final few kilometers, where unfortunately, while opening the stage, a costly error caused the two-time Dakar Champion to lose several minutes. Crossing the finish line in sixth, Price narrowly missed out on the overall rally podium by just over two minutes. Nevertheless, his strong performance over the five-day event earned him enough points to increase his lead in the FIM World Rally-Raid Championship standings, with two events left to race.
Toby Price: “I’m obviously really disappointed. I made a stupid little mistake right at the end there. I didn’t quite get the right road, so I had to cut across and then come back, and then when I was back on the road I turned left instead of right. A silly mistake, but it ended up costing me the podium. That’s racing unfortunately – the championship still looks good, but I’m gutted to have missed out here in Mexico, right at the very last stage.”
Returning to competition following the crash that forced his withdrawal from the Dakar Rally, Matthias Walkner has gone from strength to strength at the Sonora Rally. Completing the final stage in fifth, he secured a hugely impressive fifth place overall result. The Austrian now looks ahead to further building on his performance as the season continues.
Matthias Walkner: “I’m super, super happy that on my first race back after injury, I’ve been able to do really well. I think I came fifth overall. Today was really fast, you had to focus all the time, not so much on the navigation, but more on the notes in the road book and the pistes you had to be on. Everyone has been really competitive here in Mexico and I’ve been pushing like hell just to try and stay in touch. It all ended well in the end with a strong result, but I feel really good in myself, too. I’m really happy to be back!”
Arriving at the finish line of the final stage in a solid 16th place, an emotional Kevin Benavides ultimately secured a highly commendable 12th place overall. Just two months since breaking his femur in a shakedown crash in Abu Dhabi, the reigning Dakar Champion has not only completed the Sonora Rally, but has delivered five days of highly competitive racing over some of Mexico’s toughest terrain. Kevin now looks forward to the four-month break before his home race in Argentina where he will continue to build his strength and fitness.
Kevin Benavides: “I don’t know what to say. I have worked so hard after my crash to be here, and now, standing at the finish line, I can see all that work has been worth it. It’s not quite the result I wanted, but to simply finish the race is a huge achievement for me. We have some months now before the next round, so I’ll continue to work on my recovery and I’ll be ready for Argentina.”
Norbert Stadlbauer – Rally Team Manager: “It’s been a positive event for our KTM riders. The fact that Kevin even started the race after his femur injury shows just how determined he is to compete. Completing the event and feeling better and better during the race, he really impressed us with his fighting spirit. It was also great to have Matthias back from injury. He showed some good pace and will only get better now he’s back racing again. Finally, Toby was a little unlucky to lose time right at the end of the final day, which affected his final result. Despite that, he’s still at the top of the world championship standings, healthy, and riding very, very well, which is really important.”
Provisional Results – 2023 Sonora Rally, Stage 5
1. Daniel Sanders (AUS), GASGAS, 1:14:01
2. Tosha Schareina (ESP), Honda, 1:16:42 +2:41
3. Luciano Benavides (ARG), Husqvarna, 1:16:54 +2:53
4. Ricky Brabec (USA), Honda, 1:17:03 +3:02
5. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 1:18:07 +4:06
6. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 1:18:42 +4:41
16. Kevin Benavides (ARG), KTM, 1:27:55 +13:54
Provisional Standings – 2023 Sonora Rally (after 5 of 5 stages)
1. Daniel Sanders (AUS), GASGAS, 11:01:09
2. Tosha Schareina (ESP), Honda, 11:09:32 +8:23
3. Luciano Benavides (ARG), Husqvarna, 11:18:25 +17:16
4. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 11:20:52 +19:43
5. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 11:24:09 +23:00
12. Kevin Benavides (ARG), KTM, 11:47:58 +46:49
Provisional Standings 2023 FIM World Rally-Raid Championship (after 3 of 5 rounds)
1. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 62 points
2. Luciano Benavides (ARG), Husqvarna, 55 pts
3. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), Honda, 53 pts
4. Kevin Benavides (ARG), KTM, 43 pts
5. Daniel Sanders (AUS), GASGAS, 39 pts
12. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 13 pts