News 14 Oct 2021

Walkner clinches Rallies crown as Sanders podiums

Quintanilla victorious in the event, while Price returns from injury.

Image: Supplied.

Matthias Walkner has clinched his second Cross-Country Rallies World Championship crown with second overall in the Rallye du Maroc, the event won by Pablo Quintanilla as Daniel Sanders rode to the overall podium in third.

Walkner entered round four with a 20-point lead atop the point-standings, needing a strong result at the penultimate round in order to clinch the title.

“It’s been a super cool rally for me,” Walkner explained. “I set out this morning hoping to take the win, but I made a small mistake about halfway through that only maybe cost me a minute, but it was enough on the shortened stage to lose out.

“Second place overall is great though and to win the world championship title early is amazing. The team have been great all year, so a big thank you to them. It’s time to relax now and really enjoy the moment.”

Stage one – 288km starting and finishing in Zagora – was dominated by Honda riders, with Joan Barreda taking the win ahead of Ricky Brabec in second and Pablo Quintanilla third. Walkner (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and Sanders (GasGas Factory Racing) rounded out the top five, fourth and fifth respectively.

Walkner was victorious in the 334km stage two, moving into the lead of the rally by 19 seconds ahead of Quintanilla who was third in the stage, while a P4 stage finish from Sanders saw him remain fifth overall, just over five minutes from the lead.

Things started to shake up in stage three, Ricky Brabec victorious ahead of Sebastian Buhler and former event winner Andrew Short. A challenging day for Walkner saw him drop to fourth overall after finishing 13th in the stage, over 13 minutes down on Brabec who lead the rally by 9m42s ahead of Barreda, with Quintanilla in third a further 45 seconds adrift.

The third stage was also a difficult one for Sanders, making a mistake with navigation around 30 kilometres in before finishing the stage 15th, dropping him to sixth overall over 19 minutes from the lead.

The Australian bounced back to take victory in the technical special stage four, clawing his way up to third overall with a commanding performance. Walkner finished behind the GasGas rider in second, which elevated to him the lead of the rally, 37 seconds ahead of Quintanilla who was P3 on the day.

Quintanilla was victorious in the fifth and final stage, which was enough to see him win the event ahead of Walkner by 1min59sec, who finished the stage eighth. A third in the final stage saw Sanders land third overall for the event, just 5min27 sec from the lead reducing the deficit by close to 15 minutes courtesy of his performances in the last two stages.

“The last day is done and what a week it’s been!” Sanders stated. “Opening the final stage was pretty cool. After around 80 kilometres the navigation became a bit more tricky so I had to slow my pace to make sure I was on the right path. I actually had a small crash in the dunes but I was up quick and straight back on a decent rhythm.

“I’m really happy to have finished third on this stage after opening and overall it’s been a great week. To end it with a podium and secure the first podium result for GASGAS in the world championship is really cool. Now I’m looking forward to the next race in Abu Dhabi.”

A solid P2 for Brabec in stage five saw him recover to fourth overall for the event after a difficult stage four, consistency allowed Adrien Van Beveren (Monster Energy Yamaha) to round out the top five in fifth overall.

Toby Price made his rally return from injury notably finishing fourth in the final stage on route to 13th overall riding the new 2022 KTM 450 Rally, the multiple Dakar winner looking forward to progressing further in Abu Dhabi.

The fifth and final round of the 2021 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship will take place 6-12 November in Abu Dhabi, the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.