WALKNER WINS RALLIES WORLD TITLE
Coming into the Rallye du Maroc with a 20-point advantage over second place in the championship standings, Austrian racer Matthias Walkner knew he still had to put in a strong performance at the penultimate round of the Cross-Country Rallies World Championship in Morocco to clinch his second title win.
After an up and down event with a few setbacks due to navigational errors, Walkner knew exactly what was needed of him over the fifth and final day’s 166km timed special to score enough points to claim the 2021 world title. The KTM racer finished eighth for second Overall in the rally (behind Honda’s Pablo Quintanilla), securing his second FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship.
The 2021 victory is KTM’s third consecutive win in the series (teammates Toby Price and Sam Sunderland won the 2018 and 2019 titles, respectively, before the 2020 series was cancelled due to the global pandemic). KTM has now taken the championship honors six times from the last nine seasons of competition.
Walkner, the 2018 Dakar Rally winner, has shown incredible consistency in the 2021 series, finishing as runner-up at the high-speed Rally Kazakhstan, before taking the win in the contrasting conditions of the epic Silk Way Rally, less than one month later. Now, with another top-two result in Morocco, the experienced 35-year-old has shown he is clearly on form and will now be aiming to carry his winning momentum into the final round of the series at Abu Dhabi before focusing on the 2022 Dakar next January.
Matthias Walkner: “It’s been a super cool rally for me. I set out this morning hoping to take the win, but I made a small mistake about halfway through that only maybe cost me a minute, but it was enough on the shortened stage to lose out. Second place is great though and to win the world championship title early is amazing. The team have been great all year, so a big thank you to them. It’s time to relax now and really enjoy the moment.”
AUSSIES TOBY PRICE & DANIEL SANDERS
Returning to competition following his gnarly shoulder injury from the Dakar in January, Toby Price used the Rallye du Maroc as a shakedown to rebuild his speed and confidence while also putting the all-new 2022-model KTM 450 Rally through its paces in its competitive debut. Making changes and developing the bike as the event progressed, Price ultimately finished 13th, but the multiple Dakar champ said he was pleased with the performance and potential of the all-new machine and looking forward to continuing its developing at the next round in Abu Dhabi, which kicks off on November 6.
Toby Price: “It’s good to get the last day done, and out of Morocco in one piece. I picked up a small penalty for speeding in today’s stage, but all-in-all I can’t complain. It’s good to get the first event under the belt after being off the bike for so long and I’m looking forward to Abu Dhabi now to see what we can do there.”
Meanwhile, GASGAS Factory Racing’s Daniel Sanders continued to demonstrate he can mix it with the world’s best rally racers, in spite of his relative inexperience. Following on from the Silk Way Rally in Russia (where Sanders claimed three stage-wins from five starts and ended up fourth Overall, agonisingly close to the podium), he won a stage of the Rallye du Maroc and finished a very impressive third Overall.
Daniel Sanders: “The last day is done and what a week it’s been! Opening the final stage was pretty cool. After around 80 kilometres the navigation became a bit more tricky so I had to slow my pace to make sure I was on the right path. I actually had a small crash in the dunes, but I was up quick and straight back on a decent rhythm. I’m really happy to have finished third on this stage after opening and overall it’s been a great week. To end it with a podium and secure the first podium result for GASGAS in the world championship is really cool. Now I’m looking forward to the next race in Abu Dhabi.”