Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Matthias Walkner, Toby Price, and Kevin Benavides are ready to take on the 2023 Dakar Rally. With less than one month to go before the start of the iconic event, the team will soon complete their final preparations before heading to Saudi Arabia to compete in the 14-stage event, which starts on December 31.
With the 2022 season disrupted both in terms of rescheduled events and injuries, the three-man Red Bull KTM team are now back together and ready to race the upcoming 2023 Dakar. Matthias Walkner returns to rally competition for the first time since the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, where he matched his Dakar result of third place. The Austrian rider then underwent much-needed surgery on a shoulder injury that had been plaguing him for some time. Now, close to 100% fit, the 2018 Dakar winner will be aiming to secure a second title at the world’s toughest cross-country rally.
Matthias Walkner: “I’m really excited to take on my next Dakar Rally. It’s always a massive event for us and it’s the one you always want to win. With so many days racing, over so many kilometers, it’s definitely the toughest race on the calendar. It sounds like the organizers have planned an especially tough route for 2023, and with a few rule changes thrown in, I think the race will present a massive challenge. I’m still coming off a year where I missed a lot of races after receiving surgery to my shoulder, so hopefully I don’t get any issues there. But of course the goal is to win. I know I have an amazing team around me, and the bike is working really well right now – all the testing and development has really come together. The Dakar always throws up a few surprises, but I feel I’m super prepared for this one and I’m looking forward to getting started.”
Toby Price endured a tough 2022 season that saw his massive potential knocked by a road book issue at the Dakar, followed by a crash in Morocco later in the year, which forced him to withdraw from the Rallye du Maroc while fighting for the win. However, the experienced Australian knows that anything can happen in rally and has already put his difficult year behind him to focus on the Dakar. Happy with the development carried out to his KTM 450 RALLY machine over the summer’s testing, and confident that the navigation-focused 2023 Dakar will suit his skillset, Toby is fired-up to attack the formidable event.
Toby Price: “The 2022 Dakar didn’t quite go as planned for me. I had an issue right at the beginning on day one with one note in the road book, and that made it really tough to get back in contention with the front runners for the rest of the event. I know my pace was there, but rally can be tough and sometimes things just don’t go your way. We had a big gap in the middle of the year and put that to good use testing with the team. I felt great going into the Rallye du Maroc and my pace there was good, it’s just unfortunate a crash put an end to my race. We’ve got some more testing to do now in December ahead of a short break over Christmas, but then it’s straight back to it at the end of the year. I’ve had five podiums at the Dakar, and I know I have the pace to win – everything just needs to come together and I’m sure I can be up there fighting for another title.”
Looking forward to racing his second Dakar Rally with Red Bull KTM, Kevin Benavides is also focused on rewarding all the hard work put in by the team with a win. The Argentinian has enjoyed a solid 2022 season with podium results in Chile and at the final world championship round in Spain. With another year of experience gained racing the KTM 450 RALLY, Benavides feels comfortable on the bike and with the team and heads to Saudi Arabia confident and highly motivated for success.
Kevin Benavides: “2022 has been really good for me and I’m excited to carry this feeling into the 2023 Dakar. Although my final result wasn’t great at the 2022 race, I know I had the speed to do better. Abu Dhabi was also tough with a technical issue near the end, but again I was well inside the top three on pace. After spending the summer testing with the team, we made a lot of changes to the bike, and they paid off with a podium at the Atacama Rally and a strong result in Morocco. Finishing as runner-up at the final round of the year was great and really helped to build my confidence ahead of 2023. I’ve been doing a lot of work with my trainer throughout the year and feel prepared both physically and mentally ahead of such a long Dakar. I’m looking forward to it and can hopefully secure another podium result for myself and the team.”
Norbert Stadlbauer – KTM Rally Team Manager: “Our KTM riders can’t wait to race the Dakar. Toby is fit, well, and full of confidence – he’ll undoubtedly be aiming to bring home his third trophy at the 2023 event. Matthias has been undergoing an intense testing and training program since having his shoulder repaired. The new rules and long event should suit his style, I’m really looking forward to seeing what he can achieve at the race. Finally, Kevin has had an excellent year and has shown really good speed on the bike. He knows what it takes to win, so if everything falls into place he will definitely be up there. Overall, we have spent the year making a lot of improvements to the KTM 450 RALLY. The 2023 Dakar is looking like it’s going to be more demanding than ever, but we’re 100% ready to race!”
Robert Jonas – Head of Motorsports Offroad: “With three former champions in the team, Red Bull KTM are looking super-strong for Dakar 2023. It’s a massively important race, not just for the riders and the team, but for KTM as a whole. Everyone has put in a lot of work over the 2022 season, both in terms of racing the FIM World Rally-Raid Championship, and in developing the bike. With several rule changes and a long, 14-stage event ahead of the team, anything can happen at the Dakar. But I believe we’re ready for anything and as always they will fight their hardest to retake that iconic trophy.”
The 2023 Dakar Rally starts on December 31, 2022 with a short Prologue stage, followed by 14 tough stages of racing before the rally concludes on January 15, 2023.