Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Matthias Walkner has finished as runner-up on stage four of the 2021 Rally Kazakhstan. The result moves him up to second place overall in the provisional rally standings with one stage left to race. Sam Sunderland completed the timed special in an excellent seventh place, despite opening the stage, and lies fourth in the overall rankings.
Stage four, the longest of the event due in part to the 263.10km of liaison, once again tested all competitors with a variety of terrain and demanding navigation. A 40km route through sand tracks and dunes proved especially tough. And rain for the entire 308.8km special added an extra challenge, with the ground becoming slippery, especially in the slower technical sections.
Despite the challenging conditions on the extremely fast pistes, Matthias Walkner made the best use of his extensive experience to keep a level head and carefully navigate his way through stage four. Setting off 10th into the special, the Austrian star was able to catch and pass a number of riders ahead of him, while still minimizing any unforced errors. In finishing as runner-up, the 2018 Dakar Champion moves up to second overall in the provisional overall standings, just over four minutes down on the leader.
Matthias Walkner: “I think that had to be the toughest day of the rally so far for me. It was raining for pretty much the whole stage and that made it quite slippery in places, especially in the more technical sections. The dunes were nice but were followed by a very physically demanding area full of camel grass – that really took it out of you. I tried my best to push right to the end, and I’m happy with both my riding and the bike – that’s working really well. Tomorrow I’ll go out and do my best again and see what happens at the finish line.”
Fastest on Friday’s stage three, Sam Sunderland opened today’s stage four. With much of the special raced over soft, sandy terrain, dampened by the falling rain, it proved very easy for Sunderland’s rivals to benefit by following his wheels tracks. Despite the disadvantage, Sam did a superb job of navigating through the stage, losing the minimum time to mistakes to ultimately finish as seventh fastest, successfully defending his fourth place in the provisional overall standings.
Sam Sunderland: “Stage four is done and as it turns out, it wasn’t the ideal stage to be leading out as it was a very sandy stage, and with the rain, the tracks left were really clear for the guys behind to follow. It was a little bit frustrating, and I struggled to find a good, fast rhythm today, so I decided to take care and aim for a safe finish without making too many costly errors. All-in-all I feel good, and the bike continues to perform perfectly. It’s the last stage tomorrow, so I’ll give it my all and try to finish off the rally on a high.”
Rally Kazakhstan concludes with the 352.34km stage five tomorrow. The final special of the event could still throw up some surprises with a distance of 267.02km raced against the clock.
2021 Rally Kazakhstan – Provisional Results, Stage Four
1. Skyler Howes (USA), Husqvarna, 3:26:48
2. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 3:29:01 +2:13
3. Daniel Sanders (AUS), GASGAS, 3:30:54 +4:06
4. Ross Branch (BWA), Yamaha, 3:32:18 +5:30
5. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), Yamaha, 3:35:15 +8:27
7. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 3:38:46 +11:58
2021 Rally Kazakhstan – Provisional Standings (after Stage Four)
1. Ross Branch (BWA), Yamaha, 13:18:04
2. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 13:22:09 +4:05
3. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), Yamaha, 13:27:28 +9:24
4. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 13:32:47 +14:43
5. Andrew Short (USA), Yamaha, 13:47:12 +29:08