Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Matthias Walkner has claimed his best stage result of the 2020 Dakar Rally by finishing as runner-up on day 11. Narrowly missing out on the win by just nine seconds, the Austrian now sits fourth overall going into the final stage. Completing a strong set of results for Red Bull KTM, Luciano Benavides finished third-quickest with Toby Price three minutes behind in fifth.

Thursday at the Dakar marked the second half of the event’s marathon stage. After camping out in a temporary bivouac at Shubaytah the night before, riders entered today’s special running the same tyres and having carried out the minimum of maintenance due to no outside assistance being permitted overnight.

Featuring a mixture of sandy terrains, competitors were presented with a fast but demanding 379-kilometre timed special for stage 11. With less technical navigation, the real challenge for all was managing fuel levels, with the soft sand causing many to come close to running out by mid-stage.

Matthias Walkner came close to running out before the refuelling stop. Maximising the performance of his KTM 450 RALLY while pushing hard to catch the riders ahead, the Austrian was thankfully able to carry on and challenge Pablo Quintanilla for the stage win. Briefly taking the lead at kilometre 324, Matthias ultimately lost out on the stage win by just nine seconds.

Matthias Walkner: “I had a really good stage today and made the most of my good start position to really push the tracks left by the guys in front. I was riding at 100% for the entire special. I ran out of fuel about two kilometres before the refuelling but was able to lie the bike on its side to get the last bit to the pump and luckily it was just enough to carry on. I made up some good time today, but with just one stage left it’ll be tough to make up much more time. I’ll definitely give it my best and aim for a strong finish to the rally.”

Luciano Benavides also claimed his best stage result of the 2020 event today, finishing third to solidify his seventh position in the overall provisional standings. Luciano now sits just under three minutes behind the sixth-placed rider. Enjoying an excellent day in the dunes, Luciano was able to catch teammate Price from where the Red Bull KTM teammates rode together to the finish. Looking forward to tomorrow’s stage 12, Luciano hopes to close his 2020 Dakar campaign with another strong result.

Luciano Benavides: “It was a really nice day today and the first time we crossed some big dunes, so I like that a lot. I was really worried about the fuel, so I eased off before the refuelling but made it ok. After that I caught the group in front and rode with them for the rest of the stage – just trying my best not to make any mistakes and get to the finish safely. I’m really happy because there’s just one more day to go now and I hope I can finish this Dakar strong.”

Putting in a solid performance on stage 11 to claim fifth, Toby Price finished just under six minutes down on eventual winner Quintanilla. Getting his head down right from the start of the stage, Toby soon caught the riders ahead where he then found it difficult to make up any more time and was forced to ride in a group to the finish. Third overall going into the final stage, the reigning Dakar Champion hopes to conclude his time in Saudi Arabia safely and challenge for an overall podium result.

Toby Price: “I was able to make up a fair amount of time today but with the stage cut short yesterday it was difficult to get enough people between myself and the leaders. All-in-all it’s been a good day with very similar conditions to yesterday really – very fast and open. The sand has made for some tough going and like a few people today, I nearly ran out of fuel before kilometre 229. I managed to get in with about one litre left in the tank. One day to go now and I’m still feeling good so we’ll see what tomorrow brings.”

KTM Factory Racing’s Mario Patrao competed stage 11 in 42nd position and lies 32nd overall.

Stage 12 of the 2020 Dakar Rally marks the final day of racing. Covering a total of 447 kilometres and including a timed special of 374 kilometres, the stage will lead riders from Haradh to the finish at Qiddiya.

Courtesy KTM