Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Matthias Walkner has won the 2021 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. Putting in another impressive ride to finish in second place on the fifth and final stage of the event, the 2021 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Champion secured the race win to cement his position at the top of the championship standings.
Day five at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge was tough for all riders, featuring a mix of sand dunes and faster open tracks. Although the 379-kilometer stage included the shortest timed section of the race at 216 kilometers, the special was raced without a break, making it one of the toughest and most physically demanding of the event.
As the second rider into the stage, and with a near four-minute advantage over the next best competitor, Matthias Walkner set about chasing down the rider ahead of him, while concentrating on his navigation during the soft sand dunes in the opening part of the special.
Maintaining his place within the top two for the entire stage, the Austrian star delivered another calculated and consistent ride to ultimately complete the special as runner-up, just over one minute behind the eventual winner. In what has been an impressive display of skill, endurance, and speed by the world champion throughout this final event of the year, Walkner secured the race win by over four and a half minutes to truly confirm his place at the very top of the world championship standings.
Now, with his confidence high, Matthias will look ahead to the Dakar in January, hoping to carry his race, and championship-winning form onto the world’s toughest cross-country rally.
Matthias Walkner: “It was really close today! The stage was really long without a refueling point and so towards the end I had to slow down a lot to conserve fuel. It’s part of our sport that you can have four good days and then nearly be caught out in the last few kilometers. Thankfully, I made it to the finish line and am really happy to win the last race before Dakar. The team did a really good job all week and the bike has been perfect. The whole year has been fantastic for me – with the help of the team, we have all worked really closely to bring the success we’ve had. I have ridden well and not made any big mistakes, or suffered any injuries. I’ve learned a lot, even from this week riding in the sand, which is normally not my best terrain to race in. My riding has improved, and we’ve found some good set-ups for the bike, too. Overall, it’s been an incredible season and to top it off by winning the last race really helps my confidence. The big goal is of course now Dakar, it’s not far away, and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing will next be in action at the Dakar Rally, held in the Middle East from January 2-14, 2022.
Provisional Results – Stage 5 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge 2021
1. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), Yamaha, 2:32:06
2. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 2:33:20 +1:14
3. Ross Branch (BWA), Yamaha, 2:36:07 +4:01
4. Andrew Short, (USA), Yamaha, 2:36:48 +4:42
5. Joaquim Rodrigues (POR), Hero, 2:40:13 +8:07
Provisional Standings – Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge 2021 after 5 of 5 stages
1. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 17:38:40
2. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), Yamaha, 17:43:12 +4:31
3. Joaquim Rodrigues (POR), Hero, 18:14:06 +35:25
4. Aaron Mare (RSA), KTM, 19:38:35 +1:59:54
5. Konrad Dabrowski (POL), KTM, 20:29:01 +2:50:21