Former Dakar Rally champions Toby Price, Sam Sunderland and Matthias Walkner are ramping up their Red Bull KTM Factory Racing preparations for the 2021 Dakar Rally as the world’s most fearsome off-road race returns to Saudi Arabia. Here is all you need to know:
– The team were denied a 19th consecutive bike race win 11 months ago in the first Saudi Arabia edition and are focused on regaining their Dakar crown by coming up with a fresh looking KTM 450 Rally bike.
– With the route now revealed, preparations have gone into overdrive for these serial winners as 4,800 gruelling kilometres spilt across 12 timed special stages awaits them in the Middle East.
– The first of these 12 stages gets underway on January 3, 2021 with the finish line crossed by the winner back in the port city of Jeddah by the Red Sea on January 15.
– Australian Price wasted no time in achieving legendary status at the Dakar with his two wins and three third places including a 2019 victory earned racing with a broken bone in his hand for most of the race.
– The 33-year-old Gold Coast native revealed: “The landscapes we got to ride through in Saudi Arabia last time out really blew me away. At times it felt like you weren’t really on Earth, there were red rock mountains that had you feeling like you were cruising through Mars. I was expecting lots of dunes, but on that first week we got a lot of hard-pack piste and stony roads.”
– Briton Sunderland made a rapid start in the 2020 race, unfortunately a crash on stage five ended his bid for a second Dakar title to add to his victory in 2017.
– The 31-year-old explained: “During my first experience of the Dakar in Saudi Arabia I was really amazed by the terrain and the scenery that we passed. I didn’t realise before that they had that much variance in terrain. Once you’ve tasted victory, your only goal is to try and rematch that. I think there’s now about 10 guys who can win the Dakar. May the best man win.”
– The 2018 Dakar champion and 2015 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship winner Walkner wants to see the Austrian flag flying high again.
– The 34-year-old added: “I’m working towards our goal of bringing KTM back to first place at the Dakar. When the superstar veterans like (Marc) Coma were gone it was pretty hard for my generation to fill their shoes. Honda did a great job at the last Dakar and Ricky (Brabec) deserved the win. Now it’s coming closer and I’m getting more and more excited.”
– Australian rookie Daniel Sanders has graduated from the KTM Factory Racing Junior Rally Program and will line up for the curtain-raising prologue on January 2.