Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Matthias Walkner has won the second stage of the Rallye du Maroc, while also taking the provisional rally lead. Teammates Kevin Benavides, Sam Sunderland, and Toby Price all enjoyed a strong showing in the Moroccan desert, finishing safely within the top 15.
At a total of 609 kilometers, stage two was the longest of the race and included a challenging timed special of 334 kilometers. Described as the ‘most scenic’ stage by race organizers due to the vast areas of rolling dunes riders traveled through, accurate navigation was key to setting a good time.
A solid start to the rally saw Matthias Walkner finish fourth on day one, and as such, the Austrian set off this morning with three riders ahead of him. After taking time to find his rhythm in the soft sand dunes, Walkner was able to push on, soon clocking in at each waypoint near the top of the timesheets. Riding without any troubles, and ultimately winning the stage by one minute and 19 seconds, the world championship leader now heads the provisional overall rankings going into stage three.
Matthias Walkner: “It was a really good day for me today. I set out looking to minimize any mistakes again and I found it easier to get into a good pace early on. My navigation was good, and I think after about 100 kilometers I could see the guys in front of me. I pushed on from there and by kilometer 300 I caught them and the four of us rode in a group to the finish. I’m pleased to have won the stage but it means opening tomorrow, which will be tough. We’re fighting for the top spot on the podium though, so I’ll do my best and hopefully do a good job.”
Kevin Benavides rode his 2022 KTM 450 RALLY to a solid fifth-place result, just over four minutes back from Walkner. Able to make up good time in the first half of the stage, a small technical issue forced the reigning Dakar Champion to ease off in the latter stages of the special. Despite the slight disadvantage, Benavides now lies seventh overall in the provisional rally standings.
Kevin Benavides: “It was a good day for me today, I really felt like I was getting used to the new bike and making progress. For the first half of the stage I was able to push and make really good progress. Then after the refueling I had a small issue that cost me a little time, but I was still able to finish fifth. It’s nice to be competitive straight away, especially riding a new bike for a new team. I’m feeling pretty good, and although today’s long stage started to give me some pain in my shoulder, I’m already looking forward to tomorrow.”
A strong start to the day saw Sam Sunderland fighting inside the top three at the halfway point of the stage. A small error in the final 100 kilometers unfortunately cost the British rider a couple of minutes, dropping him down to eighth. But without losing too much time to his rivals, the number one plate holder remains inside the top 10 overall, in ninth.
Sam Sunderland: “Day two is in the books. Thankfully it went a lot better for me than yesterday after all the GPS problems. I started off really well and was enjoying myself and had a good rhythm through the dunes. I had to pass two guys in front that took a little time, then towards the end of the stage, I lost a few minutes after I made a navigation mistake. I’m building my confidence on the new bike and we’re learning new things each day, so hopefully by the end of the race we’ll have some good data to look at ahead of Abu Dhabi and Dakar.”
Following his navigational error on stage one, Toby Price was forced to start today’s special in 29th. Immediately getting his head down to make up time, the Australian was quickest to the first checkpoint from where he started to encounter slower riders ahead of him. Taking his time to get through the dust raised by the riders ahead, Toby made his way through the field, bringing his KTM 450 RALLY to the finish as 13th fastest.
Toby Price: “Day two was a much better stage for me. I had to start quite far back, and that meant passing quite a few guys ahead and having to get through their dust, but all in all it was a fun day with no big issues. I gave away a lot on day one, which is frustrating, but from here, I just need to stay on two wheels, bring it home every day and get to the finish.”
Stage three of the 2021 Rallye du Maroc features the second longest timed special of the event at 341 kilometers. In total, riders will cover over 600 kilometers in a looped stage, starting and finishing at the bivouac in Zagora.
Provisional Results – Stage 2 Rally du Maroc 2021
1. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 3:40:32
2. Jose Ignacio Cornejo (CHI), Honda, 3:41:51
3. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI), Honda, 3:43:22
4. Daniel Sanders (AUS), GASGAS, 3:44:12
5. Kevin Benavides (ARG), KTM, 3:44:36
8. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 3:46:35
13. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 3:51:05
Provisional Standings – Rally du Maroc 2021 after 2 of 5 stages
1. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 7:12:11
2. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI), Honda, 7:12:30
3. Ricky Brabec (USA), Honda, 7:13:11
4. Joan Barreda (ESP), Honda, 7:15:12
5. Daniel Sanders (AUS), GASGAS, 7:17:08
7. Kevin Benavides (ARG), KTM, 7:23:29
9. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 7:30:20
19. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 8:02:59