Initially scheduled to include a 267.02km timed special, stage five of the 2021 Rally Kazakhstan was shortened to just 158.27km due to an issue with the event’s refueling set-up. As such, riders’ times were very close over the stage with less than five minutes separating the top 10. Another fast route over hardpack, rocky tracks still required accurate navigation and focus to avoid losing time.
Coming into stage five in second overall, four minutes down on the leader, Matthias Walkner faced a difficult task to make up the time needed due to being the second rider to attack the special. Despite putting in a mistake-free ride at the front of the pack, with the stage being shortened there was less time to make any impact on the deficit. Safely arriving at the finish in sixth, just over two minutes down on the eventual stage winner, Matthias secured his runner-up position in the overall standings. Happy with his speed over the course of the race, and the performance of his KTM 450 RALLY, the Austrian is now looking forward to the rest of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies season.
Matthias Walkner: “Finally, we have arrived at the finish line at Rally Kazakhstan. I’ve really enjoyed it – the landscape here has been amazing, and the event has been good. It’s been a very fast rally and that took a little time to get used to, but overall, I’m extremely happy with my riding and the bike has been perfect. Second place overall is good, it’s a little frustrating to be just four minutes away from the win after close to 15 hours of racing, and I know I made a couple of mistakes earlier in the race that cost me that time, but this is the nature of rallying. I’m especially happy that on the days where I was opening the stage, I was able to maintain a good pace and not lose too much time to the guys behind, so that’s really encouraging. I’m feeling good and already looking forward to Silk Way.”
As the seventh rider to enter today’s timed special, Sam Sunderland knew he would have to push right from the start in order to make up time on his rivals ahead. Unfortunately, a crash just over 20km into the special resulted in Sunderland being unable to continue the stage. Taken to the local hospital, scans confirmed Sam suffered a fractured hip, and concussion. Thankfully, the British rider is able to walk, and was soon discharged and back with his team. Although disappointed not to have completed the event, Sam is thankful for the assistance he received, and will soon return home for further checks.
Jordi Viladoms – Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team Manager: “Of course, we’re really happy for Matthias, he rode a very strong rally to second position. He had one bad day where a mistake cost him some time, but the most important thing is the bike is working really well and he has some really good pace. In a few weeks we have the Silk Way Rally, so it’s very important that Matthias in in a good condition and feels confident and strong. The bad news is of course Sam’s crash. It looks like it was a big one at quite a high speed, so we’re thankful his injuries are not too bad. The hope now is that he can recover quickly and return to racing with the team as fast as possible.”
The Red Bull KTM Factory Racing team will return to action at the Silk Way Rally in Russia, round two of the 2021 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship, from July 1-11.