The three-man Red Bull KTM Factory Racing team has successfully completed stage two of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge – round two of the 2022 FIM Rally-Raid World Championship. Kevin Benavides endured a tough day in the desert, stopping to assist an injured rider before continuing. After the time lost was returned to him, the Argentinian placed third and subsequently moved to the top of the provisional overall rankings. Toby Price and Matthias Walkner finished the stage in 10th and 12th respectively.
Stage two of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge covered a total distance of 453 kilometers and made up the first leg of the event’s marathon stage. A 316-kilometer timed special, raced against the clock, tested the riders with another mix of dunes and faster, sandy tracks. Arriving back at the bivouac at Hameem, riders had to carry out any required maintenance themselves, with no outside assistance permitted.
Following his third-place result on the rally’s opening stage, Kevin Benavides was one of the first riders to enter today’s special. Chasing down the riders ahead, Kevin came across a fallen competitor who needed medical assistance. After waiting for the helicopter to arrive, the 2021 Dakar Champion continued with the stage, pushing hard to make up time. Arriving at the finish, Benavides was awarded the time lost due to the incident, which ultimately placed him third for the stage and moved the KTM 450 RALLY rider into the provisional rally lead.
Kevin Benavides: “Today was a good stage for me and I’m happy with the final result. It was a tough stage both physically and mentally too, because at about kilometer 50 I stopped to help Mike Docherty after he had crashed. I called the helicopter and waited for just over 20 minutes before setting off again. It’s always tough to regain your focus after something like that, but I was able to keep up a good pace and complete the stage safely. It feels good to be leading the race, so I’ll try and keep this momentum going tomorrow.”
Stage two was a mixed day for Toby Price. Showing good speed in the first half of the special, the Australian moved up into the top five on time. A number of crashes in the latter kilometers of the stage slowed his progress and also resulted in a burned arm after falling under the bike. Nevertheless, the two-time Dakar winner is in good spirits and keen to continue pushing for the remaining three days of racing.
Toby Price: “Day two is done now and it went ok. I was making good progress up to around kilometer 140 where I had a bit of a crash. The bike landed on top of me and burned the inside of my arm, which isn’t great, but other than that it was a pretty solid day. It’s definitely a tough rally – the heat doesn’t help – but I’m pleased with how things are going and I’m ready for day three.”
After catching and passing the one rider who set off ahead of him this morning, Matthias Walkner soon found himself opening today’s long, grueling 316-kilometer special. Focusing on both the demanding terrain and his navigation, Walkner completed the stage just over 12 minutes behind the eventual stage winner. The result places the reigning world champion in 10th overall, but he will enjoy a strong start position for Tuesday’s stage three where he hopes to make up time on his rivals ahead.
Matthias Walkner: “The second day went well for me, but it was a long and very challenging stage. I caught the leader at around kilometer 15, and after that opened the rest of the special. I think I did a good job navigating and making my way through the dunes, but it was really demanding to be at maximum focus for close to four and a half hours, especially in the heat. I’m pleased with how things are going, no problems so far, so we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”
Stage three of the 2022 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge – the second leg of the event’s marathon stage – will see riders complete a total distance of 290 kilometers in a looped route from the bivouac at Hameem. The 255 kilometers of timed special will be raced against the clock.
Provisional Results – Stage 2 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge 2022
1. Ross Branch (BWA), Hero, 4:10:28
2. Luciano Benavides (ARG), Husqvarna, 4:11:07 +0:39
3. Kevin Benavides (ARG), KTM, 4:11:09 +0:41
4. Ricky Brabec (USA), Honda, 4:11:17 +0:49
5. Franco Caimi (ARG), Hero, 4:12:02 +1:34
10. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 4:16:45 +6:17
12. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 4:22:33 +12:05
Provisional Standings – Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge 2022 after 2 of 5 stages
1. Kevin Benavides (ARG), KTM, 7:52:48
2. Ricky Brabec (USA), Honda, 7:57:11 +4:23
3. Jose Ignacio Cornejo (CHI), Honda, 7:57:52 +5:04
4. Sam Sunderland (GBR), GASGAS, 7:58:33 +5:45
5. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI), Honda, 8:00:14 +7:26
7. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 8:02:07 +9:19
10. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 8:03:58 +11:10