Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Matthias Walkner, Sam Sunderland and Toby Price have travelled to Chile to contest the 2018 Atacama Rally – round three of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship.
Following a strong start to the season at the opening round in Abu Dhabi, the trio will be keen to score valuable points as well as spend time on their KTM 450 RALLY machines in preparation for the 2019 Dakar Rally to be held in Peru in January.
The rally, this year held exclusively in the Atacama region around Copiapó, will see competitors contest five full stages of racing totalling over 1,300 kilometres. The condensed route, centred around the Chilean mining town, has resulted in short liaisons between each timed special. The riders won’t have it easy however – a lack of rain in the area has left the desert dry and without the usual vegetation, making navigation even tougher for all.
The Atacama marks the return to rally competition for Sunderland and Walkner since round one of the world championship held in Abu Dhabi back in March. Over the next two months, KTM will field a selection of riders at four events including the Atacama Rally, the Desafio Ruta 40, the Desafio Inka and the Rallye du Maroc.
All three Red Bull KTM Factory Racing team members contesting the 2018 Atacama are former Dakar Rally winners; Price in 2016, Sunderland 2017 and Walkner the current Dakar Rally reigning champion. Each rider is aiming to add to their current world championship points tally with just three rounds remaining. KTM Rally Sport Manager Jordi Viladoms knows the significance of the Atacama Rally in terms of both the World Championship and perhaps more importantly, preparation for the 2019 Dakar Rally.
Jordi Viladoms – KTM Rally Sport Manager: “The aim going into these last few cross-country races of the season is to win the world championship and bring all the riders back up to speed for the Dakar. The Atacama has been tricky in the past for the team, we are also up against the current world champion at his home rally. We saw last year navigation was tough and the road book was difficult to follow in places, so minimising mistakes in Chile is paramount for all riders. We have carried out some successful testing on the bike this year, but we now have to focus on the sandy conditions that will be seen throughout the 2019 Dakar – some of the Atacama stages will be perfect for this so we need to gain all the knowledge we can here in Chile.”
The main event for the motorcycle class starts on Tuesday August 14, with the first of five full days’ racing covering a total of 1,700km. Over 1,300 of them are timed special stages.