KTM has concluded another successful Dakar Rally with incredible results yesterday (January 17) when Toby Price defied the odds to take the Austrian manufacturer’s 18th consecutive victory as part of an all-Red Bull KTM Factory Racing podium. Matthias Walkner and Sam Sunderland battled to second and third positions aboard their KTM 450 RALLY factory machines.
Perhaps one of the toughest Dakar races yet with over 5,000 kilometers travelled in Peru over 10 stages, the battle of the terrain and the competition provided close racing right until the end of the final day. While there was initially doubt that Price would be able to compete in the 2019 edition of the event due to a broken wrist sustained just over one month ago, the racer’s pure grit, determination and skill saw the Australian-ace steer his KTM 450 RALLY factory machine to an emotional victory.
Heading into the final day of the 41st edition of the event as the race leader Price, who was crowned the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Champion in October 2018, knew for the 112-kilometer timed special he had to give his all. With his nearest rival falling just 10 kilometers into the stage, the 31-year-old pushed on to ultimately claim his second Dakar victory – repeating the success he first enjoyed in 2016.
Austrian racer and 2018 Dakar winner, Matthias Walkner, was pleased to conclude the event in second position having sustained an ankle injury earlier in the race. The KTM-ace battled through the pain right until the chequered flag with two stage wins to his name earning his place on the podium. Teammate Sam Sunderland, who has ridden solidly throughout the event whilst also clinching two stage wins, was promoted to third overall at the close of the rally following the removal of a one-hour time penalty given earlier in the event. The British racer’s result makes it a Red Bull KTM Factory Racing one-two-three, with five stage wins in total for the team, while Austrian manufactured machinery took the top five overall positions.
A strong performance also came from the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team junior, Luciano Benavides, who surpassed his goal of a top 10 to finish in eighth position overall in only his second Dakar Rally. KTM Factory Racing’s Laia Sanz continued her Dakar finish record to see the chequered flag for the ninth time from nine starts with an outstanding 11th position in this year’s race, despite not being fully fit in the lead up to the event.
Toby Price:“It feels amazing to stand here knowing I have won the Dakar, I don’t think it has really sunk in yet. I thought at the beginning of the event I would be lucky to even make the rest day. My Red Bull KTM bike has been amazing, I want to say a big thank you to my mechanic for that. The whole crew here do an amazing job – without them I would be no-one. The team put in so much work on the lead up to the event and when we get here it’s down to me out there on the track so it feels amazing to be able to reward them all with this result and keep KTM’s winning streak going.”
“It was so tight going into the final stage, both Pablo (Quintanilla) and I knew we would have to push right from the start. Unfortunately for him, he went too hard off a dune but he really deserves a win too – everyone that starts this race deserves a win. The plan now is to go home and relax for a little while, I know I need to have my wrist seen to, so I’ll get that sorted and then it won’t be long before we start it all over again.”
Matthias Walkner:“This means so much to me. I wanted so badly to be back on the podium. The race has been so close this year and I truly believe I have ridden my best Dakar ever. The whole 10 days have gone well and I have made the minimum of mistakes. There have been a couple of times where the start position has been tough or we’ve had trouble with the road book, but overall, I feel really happy with my performance. I did hit one of the dunes very hard in the final stage and nearly came off, it sounds like that’s what happened to Pablo, so I wish him all the best. Of course, I want to say congratulations to Toby too, he’s like an animal to ride with his wrist like that, and win. It’s such an emotional race for me – to put so much into something, so much hard work, and to get something back at the end is an amazing feeling.”
Sam Sunderland:“It always feels good to cross the finish line at the Dakar. It’s been a seriously tough race for all involved, not just for me, but for all the teams, the riders and the organization. The bike has been flawless all week, so I have to thank my mechanic. I’m over the moon to take third position, it’s not quite the result I was hoping for, but even a finish at the Dakar is an achievement in itself. Congratulations to Toby, he has put in such a brave ride all week.”
Luciano Benavides:“This is a really crazy feeling. After my crash last year and the injury, it’s been a long journey to get back up to full fitness. I have worked so hard on my riding, my navigation and it has all paid off – I couldn’t be happier right now. My goal coming into the rally was to finish inside the top 10, which I have done and more. I can’t describe how this feels.”
Laia Sanz:“I think I was more nervous before this final stage than any other, possibly because of what I have been through to get here. This year has been special and I have achieved a great result so I am very happy. It feels great to finally arrive at the finish and I want to thank the team and my mechanics for getting me here. As we have seen this year, the rally has been very tough on the bikes as well as the riders. I am very proud to be able to ride the best machine for the best team.”
Jordi Viladoms (KTM Rally Team Manager):“It’s been an amazing race with many ups and downs, often stressful, but I am extremely proud of the whole team’s performance. The rally has been far tougher than expected. Despite being shorter than usual it has included days with tricky strategy, navigation and the level of riding has been so close. To win our 18th consecutive Dakar is incredible and a lot of it is thanks to Toby – he won the race even with a lot of pain in his wrist. Personally, I would like to thank KTM for their ongoing support of this rally program, but all of this is only possible because of how the team works together.”
Pit Beirer (KTM Motorsport Director):“For us it’s another special moment, especially going into the new season, as all racing worlds are looking at Dakar. It was a very, very tough race – listening to the riders so far it was the toughest they ever went through. It’s just such a long fight, and we always prepare, fight and hope with our riders. We struggled with their pain, but at the end of the day we could turn the race around another time and to win it with such a dominating result is just incredible. The 1-2-3 may look easy on paper, but if you follow the Dakar and how difficult it was to reach this result it’s just amazing what our people are doing; the bike preparation, logistics, trucks, physiotherapy and everything behind is all important. I really want to thank our fantastic team, it’s really the number one team in the world – how the guys prepare for the Dakar, how the engineers build the bike, how the riders do such a fantastic race. Toby has defied the odds; while it was looking like it may not be possible for him to start this year’s Dakar, winning together was something we could only have dreamed of. His fighting spirit to the final kilometer with the injury he has is remarkable. Matthias fought so hard for second, which is a great achievement especially as many riders struggle the year after winning the Dakar, and Sam’s race was not easy for his hard-fought third place – we are looking forward to hearing all of their stories. Luciano, who has so far been classed as our team junior, also had a fantastic race, as did Laia Sanz – who yet again put on an outstanding performance. We are so proud of our rally achievements in KTM; we are happy that we are at the finish line and we now look forward to our team returning home so we can celebrate this moment together.”