Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Toby Price has secured his best stage finish of the 2022 Dakar Rally so far, bringing his KTM 450 RALLY home in an impressive second place. On a shortened, but very fast special, Kevin Benavides finished eighth, with Matthias Walkner just two places behind in 10th. Returning to the race following his technical issue on stage two, Tech3 KTM Factory Racing’s Danilo Petrucci completed the day in 22nd.
With heavy rain falling in and around the Al Artawiyah region, organizers were forced to shorten the timed special on stage three to 255 kilometers. Made up of extremely fast sand tracks and areas of dunes, the stage didn’t present too much of a challenge in terms of navigation, and as such, times at the top were close. The top 10 finishers were separated by less than five minutes.
After his fifth-place result on stage two, Toby Price knew he would have to push right from the start to make up time on his rivals ahead. However, with times so tight, it was tough for the Australian to claw back much more than a few minutes. Maintaining good speed over the entire special, Price was able to ultimately fight his way up to second, just over one-minute down on the eventual stage winner by the end of the day. The result moves Toby up to 14th overall, as he continues to regain the time lost on stage one.
Toby Price:“Today has been a good day – super fast, so you can’t really make up time on anyone. We had some lines in the dunes that you could see, so I just tried to make a good clean stage and not make any big mistakes. I did have one little get-off, but other than that, nothing major. The results are close, but we’re going in the right direction, and we’ll see what tomorrow brings.”
Impressing once again with both his speed and consistency, Kevin Benavides rode a solid stage three to claim eighth place. As the third rider into the special, it meant that the Argentinian was soon up near the front of the pack, opening the stage along with another three riders. Thanks to his strong run of form, despite losing time on the difficult to navigate opening stage, Kevin now lies eighth in the provisional overall standings.
Kevin Benavides:“I set off third today and so pushed right from the start. After the refueling I caught up to the guys in front and we rode together as a group of four in the end, which was good as the pace was quite high. Day by day I’m getting back some of the time I lost with a mistake on stage one, so things are going well.”
As the 14th rider to take to today’s stage, Matthias Walkner had hoped to use it to his advantage and chase down the riders ahead. With the special shortened and times extremely close, despite his overall speed on the stage, Walkner was unable to retake as much time as he would have liked. However, making the minimum of mistakes, the 2021 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Champion was able to steer his KTM 450 RALLY to the finish in 10th place, successfully defending his third-place position in the overall event standings.
Matthias Walkner:“It was a really, really fast stage today. The guys in front did a good job of navigating, so even though we had some lines in the wet sand, it was hard to make up that much time. I’m lying third in the overall, but it’s still very early, so we’ll see what tomorrow brings.”
Suffering a technical issue yesterday, Tech3 KTM Factory Racing’s Danilo Petrucci was forced to withdraw from the stage. Returning to the team at the bivouac, the electrical problem was found and rectified, and the Italian rider was cleared to rejoin the race, although he will no longer feature in the event classification. Setting off 51st into today’s stage three, Petrucci immediately began fighting for a top-20 position, despite the traffic he had to encounter. A small mistake towards the end of the stage cost him a couple of minutes, but Danilo was able to hold on for an impressive 22nd place.
Danilo Petrucci:“I’m really happy to be able to continue riding today after the issue I had yesterday. Yes, I’ve lost one stage, but it feels good to be racing again. I really enjoyed the stage today, the goal was just to get to the end, but it was very fast and really good fun. There were a lot of lines in the sand, but I still tried to read the roadbook and learn more in the way of my own navigation. I did make a couple of small mistakes, but it feels so good to be back on the bike. I have nine more stages to continue learning and I’m looking forward to it.”
Photo Credit – Rally Zone