Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Matthias Walkner has topped the timesheets on stage three of the 2021 Silk Way Rally. The Austrian rider now leads the overall standings by over two minutes, with two stages left to race.
Due to the ongoing COVID situation in Mongolia it was decided by the Silk Way Rally organizers yesterday not to enter the country as originally scheduled and to complete the event with three further stages in Russia. As such, today’s stage marks the first half of the event’s revised marathon stage. Riders will stay overnight in the bivouac at Kosh-Agach, before returning to their teams at Gorno-Altaisk on Monday.
Totaling 666km, Sunday’s stage included a long section of liaison before riders entered the 133km timed special. In contrast to the terrain seen during the first two days in Russia, stage three consisted of both sandy and rocky tracks, with little vegetation, as well as a number of rivers crossings to tackle.
To ensure a safe finish on both days of the marathon stage, Matthias Walkner opted for a more calculated approach to Sunday’s timed special. Staying at a strong but safe pace and focusing on his navigation, the Austrian was still able to catch the rider ahead of him by the halfway point. Maintaining both his speed and accuracy, Walkner was able to complete the special without any mistakes and in the fastest time – elevating himself to the top of the provisional overall standings.
Matthias Walkner: “Today was a nice day. The special was quite short, but after such a long liaison, it was tricky to find your speed and focus at first. Because of that, my pace was not so good at the beginning – I just wanted to stay accurate and not make any mistakes. But when I started to see the dust from Skyler Howes in front it gave me extra motivation to keep pushing to the end. I am happy with the stage win, and happy to lead the overall. Obviously, it’s a pity that the rally has been cut short, but it’s still really important for the championship, so I’ll continue to do my best on these final two stages and hopefully end the event in a good position.”
Jordi Viladoms – KTM Rally Team Manager: “Once we found out that the rally would be unable to go into Mongolia, the teams had a meeting with the organizers and the FIM to find a way to ensure we could race for a full five days, to be eligible for world championship points. By re-running these last two stages, the rally can go ahead and although we’re disappointed not to race in Mongolia, we’re thankful that a solution was found. I’m really happy with Matthias’ performance today on what was a very tricky stage, with high altitude and a lot of river crossings that proved an issue for some riders. The bike is working well with no issues, so hopefully with another solid stage tomorrow, we’ll be in good shape for Tuesday and the final day of the event.”
The Silk Way Rally continues with day four from the temporary bivouac at Kosh-Agach back to Gorno-Altaisk. As a result of the changes to the rally schedule, the stage will repeat the 133km stage three special, with riders then heading north to reunite with their teams.
2021 Silk Way Rally – Provisional Results, Stage Three
1. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 1:32:21
2. Skyler Howes (USA), Husqvarna, 1:34:24 +2:03
3. Franco Caimi (ARG), Hero, 1:35:36 +3:15
4. Luciano Benavides (ARG), Husqvarna, 1:38:24 +6:03
5. Sebastian Buhler (GER), Hero, 1:38:48 +6:27
2021 Silk Way Rally – Provisional Standings (after stage three)
1. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 3:49:24
2. Franco Caimi (ARG), Hero, 3:51:47 +2:23
3. Skyler Howes (USA), Husqvarna, 3:54:33 +5:09
4. Sebastian Buhler (GER), Hero, 3:57:36 +8:12
5. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), Yamaha, 3:58:51 +9:27