Dakar newcomer Matthias Walkner of Austria sealed victory in Stage Three of the Dakar Rally, an impressive result for the former MX3 World Champion. Walkner, a KTM-supported rider, is the first Austrian to ride in the Dakar since Heinz Kinigadner in the 1990s.
Walkner completed the stage in two hours 34.28, just 00.40 ahead of KTM Factory rider Marc Coma and 1.53 ahead of current overall leader Joan Barreda. During the day race officials decided to shorten the stage that was planned to take riders from San Juan to Chilecito – a total distance of 657 km, including 220 km of timed special. This was in response to Monday’s Stage Two having been judged by even seasoned professionals as ‘difficult’.
Fourth across the finish line was Australia’s desert racer Toby Price, like Walkner making his first appearance in the Dakar Rally as a KTM-supported rider. Price continues to be impressive and was only 2 minutes 45 behind Walkner. KTM’s other factory riders Ruben Faria, Jordi Viladoms and Sam Sunderland finished 7-9-11. The top 20 riders all finished within a 10-minute margin.
The stage, said to be one of the most scenic in this year’s rally, took riders northwards along the line of the Andes. They had to negotiate their way through red earth tracks and canyons and spent much of their time in extremely rocky riverbeds.
After Stage Three, Barreda of Spain and Portugal’s Paolo Goncalves continue to lead the standings. Walkner moves up to third, leading in five KTM riders – Coma, Faria, Price and Viladoms, who at seventh is currently 14.07 minutes off the winning pace.
What the riders said
Matthias Walkner: “I already had a good feeling when I got to the finish because I knew I had a good day. But at the end I was a bit tired and wasn’t concentrating so well and I made some small mistakes. It is an amazing feeling to win the stage and for sure I didn’t expect this. It will be difficult to open the piste tomorrow. Now for the rest of the rally I just want to enjoy every kilometer, to learn and to stay focused on the road book so I don’t make many mistakes.”
Marc Coma: “Today was not a long stage and I thought it would be a good day to recover some time. But in the end that is quite difficult to do if the distance is short. Tomorrow the skyline of the rally completely changes. We arrive in the open desert and the sand dunes where I feel more comfortable. Everything is possible.”
Ruben Faria: Today was easier than yesterday, which was very tough. It was very fast at the beginning of the stage and in the end we were about 40 km in the riverbed and there were a lot of stones. Tomorrow we start the real navigation in Chile and I hope to arrive in a good place. The navigation will be tough and it will be a hard day.”
Jordi Viladoms: “Today we were expecting a few more navigation problems but we just had to follow the river. Tomorrow is going to be a difficult one so I tried to be careful and save something for that. Everything at the moment is really good with my riding, with the bike and everything, and also with my physical condition is good after yesterday so I am happy.’
Toby Price: “The first part of the stage was fast and open and the navigation was easy. If all the Dakar was like this I wouldn’t have any dramas but I’m still struggling a bit with the road book definitions. At this stage I definitely couldn’t lead a stage but hopefully by the end of next week we might be able to do that. Once we get into the desert its game on and a lot of hard work. My pace might drop off a bit but hopefully by the end of next week we can pick it up again.”
Red Bull KTM Factory Team riders and KTM-supported riders are all on the KTM 450 RALLY.
Stage Four sees the route leave Argentina and enter Chile as riders head from Chilecito to Copiapó. They have to travel 909 km, 315 km of timed special and the characteristics and geography will change dramatically as they enter the Atacama Desert and have to attack the dunes.
Dakar Rally Stage Three
San Juan to Chilecito – 437 km liaison, 220 km special (657 km)
1, Matthias Walkner, Austria, KTM, 2 hours 34.28
2, Marc Coma, ESP, KTM at 00.40
3, Joan Barreda, ESP, Honda at 1.53
4, Toby Price, AUS, KTM at 2.45
5, Paolo Goncalves, POR, Honda at 2.49
6, Alain Duclos, FRA, Sherco, at 3.11
7, Ruben Faria, POR, KTM, at 3.24
8, Jeremias Israel Esquerre, CHI, Honda at 4.02
9, Jordi Viladoms, ESP, KTM, at 4.36
10, Joan Pedrero, ESP, Yamaha, at 5.21
11, Sam Sunderland, GBR, KTM, at 5.23
12, Pablo Quintanilla, CHI, KTM at 5.39
13, Stefan Svitko, SVK, KTM at 6.15
18, Ivan Jakes, SVK, KTM at 9.24
19, David Casteu, FRA, KTM, at 9.54
20, Riaan van Niekerk, RSA, KTM, at 10.07
22. Hans Vogels, NED, KTM, at 13.4
25. Jakub Przygonski, POL, KTM at 18.34
Overall Standings after Stage 3
1, Barreda 9:43.05
2, Goncalves, at 5.33
3, Walkner at 10.33
4, Coma at 10.50
5, Faria at 12.10
6, Price at 12.24
7, Viladoms at 14.07
8, Israel-Esquerre at 18.33
9, Rodrigues at 18.34
10, Pedrero at 23.02
12, Svitko at 26.36
13, Qunitanilla at 27.53
14, Casteu at 32.16
15, Van Niekerk at 34.11
20, Jakes at 43,09
21, Vogels at 55.00
22, Przygonski at 55.36
Route Stage Four (Wednesday, January 7, 2015)
Chilecito to Copiapó – 594 km liaison, 315 km special (909 km)