06.10.2017

Matthias Walkner runner-up on longest stage of 2017 OiLibya Rally

5th Round Rally 2017 – OiLibya Rally (MAR)
Matthias Walkner - KTM 450 RALLY - OiLibya Rally 2017

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At 860km, stage one of the OiLibya Rally was the longest of the event. After a 4.30am start, riders were on their bikes for a total of 12 hours. Confident after their result on the short Prologue, Matthias Walkner and Sam Sunderland went into the stage looking to repeat their success from the previous day.

Walker was the 12th rider away early in the morning, three minutes behind his team-mate Sunderland. The tough day would prove to be the ultimate test for the new KTM 450 RALLY ahead of its official launch in November. The bike didn’t miss a beat and carried Walkner to a well-deserved runner-up position.

Walker completed the timed special stage in just over three hours with the Austrian happy with his day’s riding but still felt some improvements could be made over the remainder of the rally.

Walkner: “That was a really long day, we set off at 4.30am. Everything went really well until about 50km into the special stage. Sam and I got a little lost and ended up riding together. That would be ok if it wasn’t for the dust you have to ride through. The stage didn’t feel that fast but the times are good so I’m happy with that. We still have a little setting up to do on the bike but generally everything feels good, so hopefully we can keep this pace up over the next few days.”

FIM Cross-Country Rallies Championship contender Sam Sunderland was extremely happy with how the day had gone. A small error on the special stage cost the British rider some time but overall he was pleased with his pace and the feeling on the new bike. Trailing the championship leader by only six points, every day of the Moroccan rally is crucial for Sam.

Sunderland: “That was a really good day - it was the first full stage we’ve done on the new bike, and it felt really good. The only issue I had was in the special, there was a note missing from my road book so I ended up losing three minutes. Matthias caught me and we carried on together. Apart from that, everything went well which is encouraging, but there’s still four long days ahead so we’ll keep working hard and hopefully end the rally with a win.”

Antoine Meo put in an extremely strong ride on what was his first full-length stage since the Abu Dhabi rally in April of this year. After his mistake through the speed check of the Prologue, Meo wanted to complete the long stage one without any errors or mishaps. His excellent ride placed him sixth today, less than eight minutes from the winner.

Meo: “After yesterday’s penalty I wanted to take things a little more carefully today and get to the finish without any problems. The day went really well though, the bike feels great and I was able to push a little when I got comfortable. I am really happy today, my time is good, I just need to stay focused over the next few days and hopefully I can claw a little time back on the leaders.”

KTM Rally Factory Racing’s Laia Sanz also put in an impressive performance today on the tough stage. Laia placed 15th overall with a very respectable time. The Spaniard is looking forward to the rest of the rally.

Sanz: “I’m happy with my time today, I’m not so far from the guys in front. Things are pretty close so I only placed 15th, but overall I am happy with how the stage went. It’s nice to get used to the new bike and I am pleased with how it feels after its first proper test on such a long stage.”

Laia’s team-mate, Luciano Benavides continued his learning experience on the new KTM and completed the stage in 22nd place.

Stage two of the OiLibya rally of Morocco will cover 388.94km in total, held in the outskirts of Erfoud, taking in river beds and smooth fast tracks before finishing in the sand dunes. Good navigation through the stage will be key.

Provisional Results Stage One – 2017 OiLibya Rally of Morocco

1. Pablo Quintanilla (CHL), Husqvarna, 3:02:10
2. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 3:04:01 +1:51
3. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 3:06:41 +4:31
4. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, 3:06:41 +5:36
5. Paulo Goncalves (POR), Honda, 3:07:56 +5:46
Other KTM
6. Antoine Meo, (FRA) KTM, 3:09:48 +7:38
15. Laia Sanz (ESP), KTM, 3:25:02 +22:52
22. Luciano Benavides (ARG), KTM, 3:35:24 +33:14

Provisional Standings – 2017 OiLibya Rally of Morocco after 1 of 5 stages

1. Pablo Quintanilla (CHL), Husqvarna, 3:11:20
2. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 3:12:54 +1:34
3. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 3:15:34 +4:14
4. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, 3:17:13 +5:53
5. Paulo Goncalves (POR), Honda, 3:17:50 +6:30
Other KTM
6. Antoine Meo, (FRA) KTM, 3:24:07 +12:47
14. Laia Sanz (ESP), KTM, 3:34:21 +23:01
22. Luciano Benavides (ARG), KTM, 3:46:12 +34:52

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