Courtesy of Red Bull Desert Wings
Monday, August 20
The brave bikers of the Red Bull KTM Factory Team pitted their wits against some of the most inhospitable terrain on Earth at the 2018 Atacama Rally. The squad’s trip to South America was perfect preparation for the upcoming Dakar Rally, where the team are looking to make it 18 consecutive victories.
The five-day Atacama Rally took the bikers on a 1,300-kilometre journey through the driest desert on the planet. The conditions in northern Chile were ideal for testing the riders and their machines for the 2019 Dakar which will take place in Peru.
2016 Dakar winner Toby Price went into Saturday’s final stage looking to leap from second overall into first place. He pushed hard on the desert tracks around the Chilean mining town of Copiapó, but eventually had to settle for a runners-up result behind Kevin Benavides.
“I set out at the beginning of the event to ride consistently and get back up to speed with the bike and the navigation and I think I have managed that.” – Toby Price
A stage win on Friday had set up reigning Dakar champ Matthias Walkner for a strong finish to the rally. Despite opening the road for the final stage Walkner was able to push on and narrowly missed out on an overall podium finish.
“We have done some good work on the bike this week, the suspension is feeling really good, so thanks to my team for that.” – Matthias Walkner
Price and Walkner’s team-mate Sam Sunderland had also been showing good speed on the bike in Chile before his rally ended prematurely. A crash on stage four forced Sunderland to retire, but the 2017 Dakar winner is planning to be back on his bike as soon as he has recovered from a bone fracture in his foot.
“It’s frustrating to have injured myself as it will mean I’m off the bike for the next few weeks, but I am grateful it wasn’t anything more serious as the mistake happened on a really fast part of the track.” – Sam Sunderland
The Red Bull KTM Factory Team will be back in action later this month. The team will stay on in South America to compete at the Desafio Ruta 40 in Argentina which runs from August 25 to 31. Desafio Ruta 40 is the fourth round of the 2018 FIM Cross-Country Rallies Championship in which Price stands fourth overall with Walkner one place further back.
Watch incredible action from every stage at the 2018 Silk Way Rally here
Watch great content on the new Red Bull Motorsports YouTube channel.
2018 Atacama Rally final results – Top 5
Toby Price: “It was a good final stage, it was always going to be tough to make up enough time to take the win, especially over such a short stage. Nevertheless, I’m happy with how the day and the whole rally has gone. I set out at the beginning of the event to ride consistently and get back up to speed with the bike and the navigation and I think I have managed that. To finish second after such a tricky race is good and sets me up well for Argentina. Hopefully I can deliver more of the same, stay fit and healthy and put in another good performance.”
Matthias Walkner: “I enjoyed the rally, but I am glad we have now reached the finish. The final stage was shorter at 150km, but was still very tricky due to all the traces from the last few days – sometimes you follow the same route and then you have to decide when to turn off and follow a new one. To be the first rider to the finish feels great, even though I did lose a little time over the course of the day. I know if I hadn’t got lost earlier in the week my overall result today could have been better, but overall, I am happy with my riding. We have done some good work on the bike this week, the suspension is feeling really good, so thanks to my team for that. We’ll head now to the Ruta 40 and hopefully improve a little more there too.”
Sam Sunderland: “Obviously I am massively disappointed to retire, especially as I was feeling really good out there and knew I had a good chance of making up some time. It’s frustrating to have injured myself as it will mean I’m off the bike for the next few weeks, but I am grateful it wasn’t anything more serious as the mistake happened on a really fast part of the track.”