Walkner into Dakar lead as Price slips back

Matthias Walkner

Matthias Walkner has moved into the lead of the Dakar Rally with three stages to go but Red Bull KTM team-mate Toby Price has slipped out of the top 10.

Monster Energy Honda’s Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo won Stage 9, a 287km special around Wadi Ad Dawasir, while Walkner was 2:06s back in fourth.

However, with GasGas Factory Racing’s Sam Sunderland another 5:57s further behind in 14th on the day, the Briton dropped from first to second in the overall classification, 2:12s behind the Austrian on the Austrian bike.

While those two are thus well in contention for what would be either’s second Dakar title, and the overall top six tightened up, an already two-time champion gave up more ground.

Price fell two positions to 11th overall, 35:14s behind Walkner, after coming 17th on Stage 9.

Sunderland had to open the road after his first stage win of Dakar 2022 on the day prior, but was competitive enough initially in terms of split times.

The GasGas rider was in fact 13 seconds quicker than Walkner to the Kilometre 118 waypoint, but that was where they began to diverge on tracking.

The battle for the day’s bragging rights became a six-way contest between two different manufacturers, which was eventually resolved as a Honda-KTM-Honda-KTM-Honda top five.

CLICK HERE for Price, Walkner reaction

Ricky Brabec led most of the stage but dropped to third in the last 87km, with team-mate Cornejo taking over the ascendancy.

The Chilean was 1:26s quicker than KTM’s Kevin Benavides to the finish line and another 21 seconds up on Brabec, with Walkner fourth and Joan Barreda Bort a close fifth.

Adrien Van Beveren is still in the hunt for a maiden Dakar crown despite riding his Monster Energy Yamaha to ninth on the day.

The Frenchman remains third overall and is now 3:56s behind Sunderland, having been 4:43s behind then-leader Sunderland a day earlier.

Pabo Quintanilla was at one stage on to usurp Van Beveren, and possibly even win the stage, but ended up eighth-quickest on the day.

Still, the Monster Energy Honda rider is fourth overall, at a reduced 4:41s from top spot, with Benavides 10:22s off the pace in fifth and Barreda Bort another 35 seconds back in sixth.

While Stage 9 was the shortest of the rally in terms of the 491km total distance, Stage 10 is a long, 759km journey from Wadi Ad Dawasir to Bisha which includes a 375km special.

CLICK HERE for extended highlights of Stage 9

General classification: Bikes Top 10

Pos Rider Nat Team Time/Gap
1 Matthias Walkner AUT Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 30:14:03
2 Sam Sunderland GBR GasGas Factory Racing +0:02:12
3 Adrien Van Beveren FRA Monster Energy Yamaha Rally Team +0:03:56
4 Pablo Quintanilla CHI Monster Energy Honda +0:04:41
5 Kevin Benavides ARG Red Bull KTM Factory Racing +0:10:22
6 Joan Barreda Bort ESP Monster Energy Honda +0:10:57
7 Lorenzo Santolino ESP Sherco Factory +0:26:54
8 Stefan Svitko SVK Slovnaft Rally Team +0:27:52
9 Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo CHI Monster Energy Honda +0:32:30
10 Andrew Short USA Monster Energy Yamaha Rally Team +0:34:59
11 Toby Price AUS Red Bull KTM Factory Racing +0:35:14

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