Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Matthias Walkner has mastered the Saudi Arabian dunes to place third fastest on stage six of the 2020 Dakar Rally. Luciano Benavides also put in a strong showing on the arduous special to place fifth. Reigning Dakar champion Toby Price unfortunately lost time after suffering a technical issue.
The organisers set out to test competitors on the final leg of racing before the rest day with a long 830-kilometre stage incorporating a 477-kilometre special ridden entirely in sand. Riders had to conserve their fuel, their machines as well as their energy on what many are calling the toughest stage of the rally so far.
2018 Dakar Champion Matthias Walkner once again put in a superb ride, maintaining a strong pace throughout the long desert stage to ultimately place third fastest, less than three minutes down on the stage winner. In keeping to a solid yet consistent speed, the Austrian was able to move through the field without making any mistakes. Going into Saturday’s rest day, Matthias lies sixth overall in the provisional overall standings.
Matthias Walkner: “It was a very intense stage today – very long and maybe 80 percent full gas the whole way. It was tough both physically and mentally and I’m glad of the rest day tomorrow. My pace was good today, I felt comfortable and didn’t make any mistakes. With the first half of the rally done I think we are in good shape – everyone is really fast this year and it’s going to be close. The goal, as always, is to make it safely to the end, so hopefully I’ll have a good second half to the rally.”
Argentinian Luciano Benavides was the eighth rider to enter the timed special on stage six and as such had the advantage of being able to chase down the riders ahead. Navigating well, while pushing hard, the FIM Junior Cross-Country Rallies World Champion closed in to around three minutes of the leader at the final checkpoint, completing the stage in an excellent fifth place.
Luciano Benavides: “The first part of the stage today was really nice – I enjoyed it a lot. My brother caught me and we were riding together for a good while. It was a tough stage, like every stage so far. It’s really good to finish fifth, which sets me up well for the next half of the rally. I’m pleased with my riding and the bike feels great – I’ve really found a good rhythm this year.”
Day five winner Toby Price had the unenviable task of leading the motorcycle class out into the longest timed special of the rally so far. Despite the disadvantage, Price rode impeccably, carrying good speed over the Saudi sand and navigating well at the front. With the best part of the stage complete, a technical issue forced the Australian to stop. Price lost around 10 minutes and finished 11th fastest on the stage. However, with six days of racing remaining, Price still lies in a provisional third overall and is fully focused on regaining the lead of the rally.
Toby Price: “It’s been a long stage today with long liaisons, definitely one of the toughest so far. Leading out was going really well for most of the day – I was navigating good, my pace was good, but then at about 390 kilometres I had an issue and had no choice but to stop. Luckily another rider was able to help me out and I got going again. I lost some time, which is frustrating but we’re only at the halfway point now and there’s a long way to go.”
KTM Factory Racing's Mario Patrao completed the long stage six in 33rd position. The popular Portuguese rider now sits in 37th overall and looks forward to the second half of the 12-stage event.
With six days of racing complete, Saturday offers a rest day for all competitors at the bivouac in Riyadh. The rally continues on Sunday with the 741-kilometre stage seven to Wadi Al Dawasir.
Provisional Results Stage Six – 2020 Dakar Rally
1. Ricky Brabec (USA), Honda, 4:36:28
2. Joan Barreda (ESP), Honda, 4:38:02 +1:34
3. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 4:39:13 +2:45
4. Pablo Quintanilla (CHL), Husqvarna 4:41:23 +4:55
5. Luciano Benavides (ARG), KTM, 4:41:30 +5:02
9. Stefan Svitko (SVK), KTM, 4:47:24 +10:56
10. Skyler Howes (USA), KTM, 4:51:31 +15:03
11. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 4:53:01 +16:33
33. Mario Patrao (POR), KTM, 5:27:00 +50:32
Provisional Standings (after stage six) – 2020 Dakar Rally
1. Ricky Brabec (USA), Honda, 23:43:47
2. Pablo Quintanilla (CHL), Husqvarna, 24:04:43 +20:56
3. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 24:09:26 +25:39
4. Jose Ignacio Cornejo (CHL), Honda, 24:09:28 +25:41
5. Joan Barreda (ARG), Honda, 24:16:45 +32:58
6. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 24:17:26 +33:39
7. Luciano Benavides (ARG), KTM, 24:22:49 +39:02
8. Skyler Howes (USA), KTM, 24:48:37 +1:04:50
9. Stefan Svitko (SVK), KTM, 24:51:36 +1:07:49
37. Mario Patrao (POR), KTM, 30:02:04 +6:18:17