Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Sam Sunderland has taken the win on the long stage three of Rally Kazakhstan. Finishing two minutes ahead of his rivals, the result moves Sunderland up to fourth in the provisional overall standings. Matthias Walkner safely completed the stage in 10th, just under 12 minutes down on his teammate.
Marking the second half of the event’s marathon stage, and also including the longest special of the event at 331km, stage three of the 2021 Rally Kazakhstan proved to be a tough test for all. With no outside assistance allowed overnight, riders had to conserve their machines over the two days to ensure their safe arrival back to the bivouac, at the end of day three. Again facing a wide variety of terrain, competitors navigated their way through gravel tracks and fast, open desert, before a more technical section led them onto 10km of dunes to finish the stage.
Lying sixth overall coming into stage three, Sam Sunderland knew he had to push to make up time on his rivals. With an advantageous start position, the Brit was able to catch and pass a number of riders ahead of him while maintaining a strong, but safe pace on the high-speed pistes. With the combined distance of the marathon stage totaling over 600km, Sam also knew that preserving his tires would be necessary, especially in the closing kilometers of the special. Despite slowing towards the end, Sunderland completed the stage over two minutes ahead of his nearest competitor and now lies fourth overall in the provisional rally standings.
Sam Sunderland: “So the marathon stage is done, and it was quite a tough one, especially as it was one of the longest specials of the race. It was hot out there today, and you never feel quite as good on the second half of the marathon stage anyway. I tried to keep a good pace and with about 80 kilometers to go I saw Skyler had a problem with his mousse. I knew then I had to slow things down a little to be able to make the finish, especially in the faster sections. When we got back into the sand, I was able to push on again to get a good result. I’m happy to win the stage, but there’s still work to do so hopefully I can have another good day opening the stage tomorrow.”
Second into today’s stage and tasked with opening much of the special, Matthias Walkner put in an excellent performance, maintaining a fast pace with very few errors right up to the final stretch. A small mistake cost the Austrian racer dearly however, with him losing over 10 minutes while trying to get back on track. Also concerned with the stress on his rear tire, Matthias chose to ease his pace and bring his KTM 450 RALLY home safely for a strong start on Saturday’s stage four.
Matthias Walkner: “Today went really well for me. It was a long stage at well over 300 kilometers, but I felt really comfortable with the pace, my bike was perfect, and I felt like I was riding really well. Starting off second meant I was opening a lot of the stage with Skyler, but at around kilometer 220 I saw he had a problem and from there I slowed things down a little while still trying to make up time in the slower, more technical sections. Up to that point I think I was still in the fight for the stage win. Unfortunately, one small mistake in the sand close to the end of the stage cost me a lot of minutes – I tried to correct it too quickly and that cost me a few more. By that point, Sam caught me, and we rode together for the finish. The results don’t really show it, because I ended up over 10 minutes down, but I’m really happy with how I rode the stage. With two days left, I’m really looking forward to tomorrow now.”
Rally Kazakhstan continues with Saturday’s 571.90km stage four. Bookended by two sizeable liaison sections, the timed special, at 308.8km, will challenge riders with a mixture of rocky tracks, riverbeds, and fast open desert. Navigation skills will be tested in the 40km of alternating sand and dune sections.
2021 Rally Kazakhstan – Provisional Results, Stage Three
1. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 3:38:18
2. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), Yamaha, 3:40:26 +2:08
3. Ross Branch (BWA), Yamaha, 3:41:48 +3:30
4. Franco Caimi (FRA), Hero, 3:42:45 +4:27
5. Andrew Short (USA), Yamaha, 3:44:47 +6:29
10. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 3:50:09 +11:51
2021 Rally Kazakhstan – Provisional Standings (after Stage Three)
1. Ross Branch (BWA), Yamaha, 9:45:46
2. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), Yamaha, 9:52:13 +6:27
3. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 9:53:08 +7:22
4. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 9:54:01 +8:15
5. Andrew Short (USA), Yamaha, 10:04:25 +18:39