ROOKIE WALKNER TAKES THE WIN ON STAGE THREE
Being a debutant does not necessarily mean being slow. In any case, KTM Matthias Walkner gave a fine demonstration of speed to pick up his first stage victory on the Dakar.
After finishing eighth on his very first special on the Dakar, then 6th on the longest special of this year’s edition between Villa Carlos Paz and San Juan, Matthias Walkner decided to take the quickest route to his first stage victory on the Dakar.
The Austrian – three times MX1-MX3 world champion – was in the leading trio at CP2 before going into overdrive, leaving the discipline’s specialists in his wake and writing the first entry on his roll of honour for the King of all rallies at the finish in Chilecito.
“The riding was not so bad,” told Walkner. “I made some little mistakes because it was a little bit dangerous today with many stones and it forced you over the limit, but overall it was quite good.
“It’s my first rally and I hope I can enjoy it. I’m just doing my best, finding my rhythm and taking it every kilometre by kilometre. The difficult part is the navigation and finding a good way to ride safely – to not make mistakes but go fast.”
This performance puts him definitively among the riders to keep an eye on, whilst Marc Coma is being closely watched by all his rivals. After losing more than ten minutes the previous day, the titleholder staged a comeback, finishing only 40 seconds behind Walkner.
More importantly, he gained one minute back on Joan Barreda who did not tempt fate and instead made sure of a solid third place to consolidate his leadership in the general standings.
“Today was easier than yesterday, but was really dangerous because we were on river beds and a lot of stones all day and so many broken up tracks,” said Barreda. So you always need to take care. I felt really good all day opening the track – it was a good feeling. I’m really happy, it’s one day more done.”
Toby Price finished fourth on the stage, to confirm the rookies’ good form, ahead of Barreda’s nearest rival in the general standings, Paulo Goncalves. Alain Duclos put in a fine performance at the end of the stage to put his Sherco in sixth place, whilst the rest of the French contingent is struggling, with in particular the 16th and 21st places of the Yamahas ridden by Michael Metge and Olivier Pain.
Laia Sanz, the leading lady, enjoyed a noteworthy performance, finishing 17th on the day’s stage.
After a difficult stage two, Llel Pavey showed maturity beyond his 23 years to ride within his limits and ensure a safe and steady finish to stage three. He maintains his position of 82nd while father Si is 2nd.
Sadly, stage three of the DAkar Rally was marred by the loss of Polish competitor Michal Henrik. Enduro21.com thoughts go out to Michal’s family and friends during this extremely difficut time.