Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Toby Price has taken the stage win on day three of the 2021 Dakar Rally, his second stage victory of the event so far. Teammates Matthias Walkner and Sam Sunderland also delivered strong rides, finishing in third and fifth respectively. KTM Factory Racing’s Daniel Sanders secured his second consecutive top-10 result in eighth.
Totaling 629km, stage three of the 2021 Dakar Rally formed a looped stage with its 403km timed special taking place south of the bivouac at Wadi Ad-Dawasir. Riders faced another tough day of navigation and varied terrain, with soft sand dunes once again forming the first half of the special, before opening out into faster, sandy tracks.
Starting down in 29th was always going to be tough for Toby Price, with the KTM 450 RALLY mounted rider having to catch and pass several rivals ahead in order to make up time. Using his formidable cross-country rally experience, the Australian was able to push hard right from the off, making light work of the tricky-to-navigate dunes near the start of the stage, before subsequently making up even more ground on the faster, desert tracks towards the finish. Clawing back valuable minutes on his competitors and claiming a 13th career Dakar stage win, Toby now sits third in the provisional overall standings, less than one minute down on the current leader.
Toby Price: “Everything went well today – no crashes, the bike has been good, and I was able to find a good rhythm. It’s great to win another stage, but it’s a bit like a yoyo at the moment – it’s difficult to lead a stage out from the front as you can lose a lot of time, and then you have to push hard the next day to make it all up again. Hopefully one day we’ll catch a bit of a break, the navigation won’t be too tough, and I can stretch things out from the front. Right now, every day is crucial, and I think if it carries on like this, with everyone staying fit and their bikes working good, the battle for the win is going to go down to the very last day.”
After suffering a technical issue on Monday’s stage two, Matthias Walkner was the 32nd rider to enter today’s timed special. The Austrian put in a great ride, moving into the top three straight away, a position he successfully defended to the finish. Despite a sizeable deficit to the rally leaders in the overall standings, Matthias is focused on maintaining his efforts and pushing hard for stage wins as the event continues.
Matthias Walkner: “It was quite a nice day today, but so, so fast – I think for 70 or 80 percent of the day I was flat out. There was a good mix of fast tracks and tricky navigation, but in general, I enjoyed the stage. Obviously, I’m still disappointed after losing so much time yesterday and it’s going to be hard to improve my position in the overall, but my plan is to take each day as it comes now and do the best for myself and the team.”
Continuing to deliver strong stage results, Sam Sunderland completed today’s special as fifth fastest, eight-and-a-half minutes down on teammate Price. Despite a couple of small navigation errors early in the stage, after starting 16th, the 2017 Dakar winner moved into the top 10 by the first checkpoint and increased his pace towards the finish. Sam’s solid rides over the first three stages of the event have paid off as the Brit currently lies fifth overall in the standings.
Sam Sunderland: “It was quite a fast stage all-in-all, I think the average speeds were quite high today. I made a small mistake near the beginning, where I struggled to find one waypoint, but I don’t think I lost too much time. After that I was able to push on and found a good rhythm in the faster sections. For most of the day I was riding alone, I had to pass four of five guys, but after that it was just me versus the stage. The wind made things very tricky as it was hard to see the tracks ahead and you’re always fighting against it, which makes things even more tiring. Overall, I’ve had a good day.”
KTM Factory Racing’s Daniel Sanders continues to impress at his first Dakar – his second ever cross-country rally. The young Australian has been able to make the best use of his out-and-out speed on the faster tracks of each stage, while taking care with his navigation and steadily improving his road book skills. As such, with another top-10 stage result, Sanders now lies an impressive 16th in the provisional rankings and as the event’s top rookie, by close to 20 minutes.
Daniel Sanders: “Not a bad day for me today, I had a few crashes on the dunes early on and then racing through the tracks and canyons I made a couple of small mistakes with the road book. At the end it was nice and fast, which suits me, and I was able to catch some of the guys in front. I think I put in a good time today with no dramas, and the bike was perfect all day again, too. It’s only day three, so there’s plenty more to come.”
Leaving Wadi Ad-Dawasir and heading for Riyadh, Wednesday’s stage four of the 2021 Dakar Rally is the longest of the event at 813km. The 337km timed special will be made up primarily of rough, sandy tacks and looks to be less challenging navigation-wise.