Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Matthias Walkner entered the final timed special stage of the rally with a healthy 22-minute lead over his nearest competitor. Holding his nerve and completing the short 120km loop around the Argentinian city of Córdoba, the KTM 450 RALLY mounted rider did exactly what he needed to do to win the 2018 Dakar Rally.
This victory, the first for an Austrian rider in the motorcycle class, is the 17th in a row for KTM, who have won each and every edition of the Dakar since the rally moved to South America in 2009.
Walkner has unquestionably put in a champion’s performance at this year’s event – the 40th edition of the Dakar Rally. The former FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Champion has ridden intelligently from the very first stage, finding the right balance between out-and-out speed and error-free navigation. Stage 10 was again a game-changer in the rally with Walkner ending the day with an almost 30-minute advantage over his nearest competitors.
In reaching the finish of today’s final stage in eighth position, Matthias was finally able to relax and celebrate a well-deserved win and let his historic achievement sink in.
Matthias Walkner: “It’s unbelievable – I can’t describe how it feels. This year’s Dakar has been so difficult, easily the toughest rally of my career. Navigation has been tricky pretty much every day. At the beginning of the race, all the top guys were so close with not much time between us. I just tried to keep on doing well each day without making any mistakes. Things were so tight right up to my stage victory. After that I aimed to finish each day safely and get to the end of the rally without losing my advantage. Luckily the tactics worked out and I’m here at the end now as the winner and it feels unreal. Thank you to my team and everyone that has supported me – we did it!”
Meanwhile, we saw Indian rider Aravind KP retire after injury and C S Santosh finish at a very respectable 35th position.
C.S Santosh said: “It was as tough Dakar this year for sure, every day you had to bow down to the stages. I had lots of ups and downs, some high points in the beginning, and then some lows as well. I think it was everything that you would envision a Dakar to be. I am happy to make it to the finish line of yet another Dakar. My best Dakar so far so I am really happy to be going home with that.”