Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Toby Price has delivered his best stage result of the 2022 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge so far, placing second-fastest on the tough, 396-kilometer day four. Opening the stage, Matthias Walkner finished in 13th place, while unfortunately, after suffering a technical issue, Kevin Benavides brought his KTM 450 RALLY home in 26th.
Although temperatures in the Liwa Desert weren’t quite what they have been during earlier stages of this second round of the FIM Rally-Raid World Championship, the mixture of rocky pistes and large, rolling dunes still put up a huge challenge for all competitors on today’s 243-kilometer timed special.
Coming into his own, and finding a strong rhythm as the rally progresses, Toby Price has been quietly moving up through the ranks of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. Placing as runner-up on the penultimate stage of the event has elevated the experienced Aussie to third place in the provisional rally standings – less than two minutes behind the leader. Although Price will start near the front on Thursday’s final stage, with the special only covering 209 kilometers, the two-time Dakar winner is well-placed for a strong finish to the rally.
Toby Price: “I’m pleased with today, and it feels good to be right up at the sharp end. It wasn’t quite as warm out there today, but the stage was still really challenging with some big dunes and tricky terrain. I set off well, caught Skyler (Howes) by around kilometer 60, and after that we just tried to keep on pace with the guys in front. The whole race so far has been pretty demanding physically, but I still feel in good shape. Time to get some rest now and then it’s back to full gas tomorrow for the final day back to Abu Dhabi.”
As the first rider into the timed special on stage four, Matthias Walkner had the unenviable task of opening the route and being the first to navigate through the mixed terrain. Despite the pressure, the reigning world champion was able to stay out in front for the entire 243 kilometers while also maintaining a good, solid pace. Completing the day in 13th, eight and a half minutes down on the winner, Matthias dropped down to sixth in the event standings, but will now enjoy a strong start position for tomorrow’s final sprint to the finish line.
Matthias Walkner: “That was a really tough stage for me – one of the hardest in my life! With so many off-piste sections, leading out and having to open the stage was really tricky. You have to remain 100% focused for the whole special while trying to keep up a good strong pace. My main goal was to lose the minimum of time, which I managed to do. It was only Sam (Sunderland) that caught me, so that is really encouraging. I’ve been on the back foot since the first day really, but I’ve given it my all throughout the whole rally – riding at 110% on every stage. It’s exhausting, and I’ll definitely be glad to see the finish line tomorrow, but I’m super-happy with my riding, and the bike has been perfect, too.”
Kevin Benavides was in great shape early on in today’s stage, pushing hard and fighting for a place in the top five on time. Unfortunately, before the second checkpoint, a technical issue caused him to slow his pace, putting an end to his challenge. Despite the setback, the 2021 Dakar Champion used his skill and experience to bring his KTM 450 RALLY home to the finish, placing 26th. Benavides now lies 13th overall, but will try to attack tomorrow’s final stage, to finish his rally on a high.
Kevin Benavides: “I started really well this morning, I knew I had the speed, and I knew I could make up time on the others, but unfortunately it just wasn’t to be. Around the 60-kilometer mark I had a small technical issue that slowed my pace and from there I just tried to bring it home safely and get to the finish. It’s disappointing of course, especially as I knew I had a good chance to challenge for the top spots, but these things happen, and you just have to move on. Hopefully I’ll have a good day tomorrow and finish the race with a strong stage result.”
Stage five of the 2022 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge will cover a total distance of 371 kilometers and feature a timed special of 209 kilometers raced against the clock.
Provisional Results – Stage 4 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge 2022
1. Luciano Benavides (ARG), Husqvarna, 3:04:10
2. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 3:04:42 +0:32
3. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI), Honda, 3:05:14 +1:04
4. Ricky Brabec (USA), Honda, 3:06:02 +1:52
5. Joaquim Rodrigues (PRT), Hero, 3:07:07 +2:57
13 Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 3:12:36 +8:26
26. Kevin Benavides (ARG), KTM, 3:55:07 +50:57
Provisional Standings – Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge 2022 after 4 of 5 stages
1. Sam Sunderland (GBR), GASGAS, 14:33:27
2. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI), Honda, 14:33:50 +0:23
3. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 14:35:09 +1:42
4. Ricky Brabec (USA), Honda, 14:36:01 +2:34
5. Joaquim Rodrigues (PRT), Hero, 14:38:36 +5:09
6. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 14:40:47 +7:20
13. Kevin Benavides (ARG), KTM, 15:23:22 +49:55