Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Matthias Walkner has won stage three of the 2022 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, moving himself up to second in the provisional rally standings. Toby Price earned his best result of this year’s event so far placing fourth fastest, while teammate Kevin Benavides completed the stage in 10th despite opening much of the special and suffering a heavy crash in the latter kilometers. All three riders now sit inside the top-six overall.
Enjoying his time racing through the Liwa Desert, Matthias Walkner delivered a fast and smooth ride to take the win on today’s 255-kilometer timed special by close to one minute. The reigning FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Champion’s performance was enough to elevate him from 10th up to second in the event rankings, where he lies four and a half minutes behind the leader. The Austrian will now face the unenviable task of opening Wednesday’s stage four.
Matthias Walkner: “The stage went well today – it always feels good to get a win. It was perhaps not the best result for the overall because it means I will lead out tomorrow and lose some time on the others. I planned in the morning to ease off a little towards the end of the special, but honestly, I was having so much fun out there in the dunes I just kept going. Times are tight at the top of the standings, and it’s going to be tough opening tomorrow, but the goal remains the same – get to the finish safely and hopefully with a good, solid result.”
Toby Price continues to put in strong, consistent performances at this year’s ADDC. Completing stage three as fourth fastest, Price lies sixth in the provisional rally standings – well within touch of the leaders with two stages remaining. With an advantageous start position for tomorrow’s 243-kilometer timed special on stage four, the Aussie racer will be looking to close the gap and put himself in a strong position heading into the final day.
Toby Price: “Day three is done. It was another tough day and for a lot of the time I was riding on my own. It makes it really difficult to find a good rhythm and then you start to wonder if you’re on a good pace as sometimes you think you’re going really well and other times it seems slow. I was caught by Matthias (Walkner) and Skyler (Howes) later on, and that was the first time I rode with people in the dunes at this event. It was good because you could set a much better pace and it was a lot of fun too. All in all a good day, I kept it on two wheels, and now looking forward to the final two stages.”
Following his third-place result on stage two, Kevin Benavides set off near the front of the pack into today’s special. Catching up with the two riders ahead of him by the refueling point, the Argentinian rider was running well inside the top 10 and looking to push hard over the remaining 100 kilometers. Frustratingly, a heavy crash caused Benavides to stop for some time, but thankfully the 2021 Dakar Champion was able to continue to the finish. Although sore, Kevin will aim to get some rest overnight and be back to attack Wednesday’s stage four. The KTM 450 RALLY rider currently lies third in the overall rankings.
Kevin Benavides: “A tough day for me today. The stage was good – hard work and tricky to maintain a good pace over the broken dunes, but I think I did a good job in the first half of the stage and had managed to catch the guys in front. After the refuelling I had a crash and hurt my stomach, but after taking a minute or two I was able to continue. I managed to complete the stage in a pretty good time, but I need to try and recover a little now to feel better for tomorrow.”
Stage four of the 2022 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge – the penultimate of the event – will cover a total distance of 396 kilometers and feature a timed special of 243 kilometers raced against the clock.
Provisional Results – Stage 3 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge 2022
1. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 3:24:13
2. Sam Sunderland (GBR), GASGAS, 3:25:14 +1:01
3. Skyler Howes (USA), Husqvarna, 3:26:43 +2:30
4. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 3:28:20 +4:07
5. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI), Honda, 3:28:22 +4:09
10. Kevin Benavides (ARG), KTM, 3:35:27 +11:14
Provisional Standings – Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge 2022 after 3 of 5 stages
1. Sam Sunderland (GBR), GASGAS, 11:23:47
2. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 11:28:11 +4:24
3. Kevin Benavides (ARG), KTM, 11:28:15 +4:28
4. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI), Honda, 11:28:36 +4:49
5. Ricky Brabec (USA), Honda, 11:29:59 +6:12
6. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 11:30:27 +6:40