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KTM In Final Prep For The Dakar Rally


advrider

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KTM has an impressive record in the Dakar Rally.  Posting an incredible 18 consecutive victories between 2001 and 2019, the KTM team is always a threat to win the world’s most challenging racing event.  But the last two years have seen Honda win, and KTM aims to fix that in 2022.

The Austrian manufacturer is building a team filled with Dakar Rally winners and a MotoGP veteran, that it hopes will once again bring the “Ready To Race” marque another victory.  Taking control of KTM’s 450 Rally machines this year are Matthias Walkner, Toby Price, Kevin Benavides, and Danilo Petrucci.  With three of the four having a Dakar win under their belts, the Dakar experienced trio knows what is necessary to win.

Matthias Walkner

Matthias Walkner’s 2021 rally season has been exceptional.  He is presently the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Champion.  Walkner won the Dakar in 2018, and after winning this year’s Cross-Country Rally World Championship, he brings a high level of confidence to the 2022 Dakar.

“2021 has been a really, really good year for me, starting with my performance at the Dakar and then throughout the world championship. Luck wasn’t on my side in January, I had an issue early on that cost me too much time to get a top result. My speed was definitely good though and I was able to carry that into the rest of the season. It’s been a difficult couple of years for everyone but it’s always good when all your hard work and training pays off with some strong results.

To finish inside the top two in all of the four races we entered during the year, and to take two wins shows my passion for racing is still as strong as ever. Morocco is one of the most important races leading up to the Dakar due to the terrain and with all of the top riders competing, I finished second there, less than two minutes down and that was definitely a big boost for my confidence. I’m feeling good, I’m really comfortable on the bike, and with just a few weeks to go before Dakar, I’m ready to race!”

Walkner

Toby Price

KTM’s next rider is Toby Price.  Price’s pace during the 2021 Dakar was excellent, but he crashed on stage nine and was forced to retire from the event.  After three separate surgeries, he re-joined KTM to help test the KTM 450 Rally machine in the dunes of Morocco.  The 2022 Dakar will be Price’s opportunity to rise to the top of the field again.

“I’m really looking forward to Dakar 2022. This year’s race didn’t go too well for me, crashing out on stage nine. I was sitting in a good place, so it was tough to have to retire. The plan for the next one is similar to those I’ve had in the past to be honest – make it safely to the rest day in a solid position, stay in contention, and try to let the days come to me.

On the days that we need to push, we’ll really go for it. It’s easy to make a plan, but the rally is always changing day-by-day, you have to be able to adapt. I’m feeling really good now, and the work on the new bike is definitely going in the right direction. All being well we should be in the mix, and I can’t wait to go racing again with the Red Bull KTM team!”

Price

Kevin Benavides

Making the switch from Honda to KTM for the 2022 Dakar is last year’s winner, Kevin Benavides.  Unfortunately, an injury received in Rally Kazakhstan forced him to take some time off the bike to recover.  He did, however, race in the Rallye du Maroc on a KTM 450 Rally.  The Argentinian rider continues to train for the 2022 Dakar and hopes to win his second consecutive Dakar.

“Well, the big race is just around the corner now – it’s amazing how fast this year has gone. I’m really looking forward to this new challenge and taking on the Dakar riding for Red Bull KTM. The year has been tough for me, soon after signing for the team I hurt my shoulder in a practice crash and that meant I had to spend three months off the bike right at the time I needed to ride as much as possible.

After that, the testing and training program has been intense – the team came out to America where we did a lot of work on the new bike, then we travelled to Morocco to race the Rallye du Maroc. The goal there was to make further steps with the bike and really get to know the team in a racing environment. It all went really well, and I’m very pleased with the steps we’ve made with the new KTM 450 RALLY.

Now, with only a month to go until the big race, I’m trying to get as much training done as possible, as well as time on the new bike. I’ll then fly into the Middle East and be ready to defend my Dakar title. It’s always difficult to plan a set strategy, but once the first week is done, if everything is okay after the rest day, I will be trying my best to make it back-to-back wins!”

benavides

benavides

Danilo Petrucci

KTM is also bringing a new member to its Dakar team.  New as in first time in the KTM Dakar squad, but also new as in new to cross country motorcycle rally racing.  And that is quite a leap even for world-class competition experienced off-road riders.

Danilo Petrucci will be swapping his KTM RC16 MotoGP bike for a KTM 450 Rally.  The former MotoGP competitor is undergoing “intense” roadbook training with KTM’s Rally Sport Manager Jordi Viladoms who has raced the Dakar 15 times.  But regardless of the training, roadbook navigation has a significant learning curve, and at the Dakar level, navigation is the first and foremost necessary skill. So the fact that KTM is entrusting Petrucci with a 450 Rally says a lot about what they think of his riding skills.

Petrucci

Petrucci is making the jump from MotoGP to Rally Racing.

New Rally Team Manager

But Petrucci will not be the only new member of KTM’s Dakar Rally squad.  Joining the team as Team Rally Manager is Norbert Stadlbauer.  And he thinks that the team’s chances are pretty good.

“It’s going to be my first year attending the Dakar as Rally Team Manager and definitely something I’ve been looking forward to since taking the position. It’s a hugely important race for KTM, and the whole team have put in a massive effort for this main event, with their training, preparation, and with the new bike.

In terms of the riders, Matthias has made a big improvement in his speed and consistency over the last year, and that has allowed him to claim the world championship – he can deliver when he needs to.

Kevin is the reigning Dakar champion and knows exactly what is needed to be on top at the end of the final stage. He’s spent a lot of time training and working on the new bike this year and we can’t wait to see him perform on the KTM.

Thankfully Toby is almost back to 100% now and you can never rule him out of a Dakar win – he seems to be able to just push a button and be right up front.

Finally, it’s great to have Danilo join the rally program from MotoGP™. He’s shown great skill on the bike already in what is a big and exciting new challenge for him. His goal this year is just to finish the race, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing how he progresses through the event.”

2022 Dakar begins

The 2022 Dakar will begin on Saturday, January 1, 2022, with a short prologue stage to decide the Rally’s starting order.  After that, the event will be held over 12 stages and cover over 4,970 miles (8,000 km).


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