Red Bull KTM Factory Racing riders Toby Price, Matthias Walkner and Sam Sunderland are ready to race the fifth and final round of the 2018 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship – the Rally du Maroc, in Morocco. Joined by KTM Factory Racing’s Luciano Benavides, the rally marks the team’s final competitive outing before the Dakar Rally early in 2019.
Starting and finishing in the Moroccan city of Fes in the north east of the country, the rally is then centred around the oasis town of Erfoud in the Sahara Desert. Comprising a short prologue followed by five full days of racing, the event will see riders complete a total of 1,907 kilometres, 1,225 of which are timed special stage. At the end of the third day’s racing, competitors will spend one night in a camp away from their teams – this marathon stage will require all riders to perform any required bike maintenance themselves, with no outside assistance other than from their fellow riders.
Sitting second in the 2018 standings, Toby Price comes into the Rally du Maroc just eight points down on the championship leader. Despite mixed results at the Desafio Inca Rally held just over two weeks ago, Price’s pace was nothing less than impressive in the Peruvian dunes. The 2016 Dakar Rally Champion will be aiming to carry that form into this final round of the championship and fight for his first FIM cross-country rallies world title.
Reigning Dakar Champion Matthias Walkner finished as runner-up in Peru. The Austrian sits fifth in the championship standings, just 10 points from his second-placed teammate Price. Teammate Sam Sunderland made his return to competition at the Desafio Inca following the injury sustained to his foot at round three – the Atacama Rally in Chile. Both riders will be keen to clock up as many valuable kilometres on the bike as possible in Morocco in order to best prepare themselves for the forthcoming Dakar Rally in January.
Luciano Benavides continues to improve his speed and navigation onboard his KTM 450 RALLY. Having shown impressive pace throughout 2018, including a season’s-best sixth place at the Desafio Ruta 40 in his home country of Argentina, the 23-year-old’s goal will be to further increase his knowledge and experience while aiming for another top result in Morocco.
Jordi Viladoms – KTM Rally Sport Manager: “We are looking forward to this last race of the season in Morocco – the championship is really tight and by no means finished yet. Toby is a close second, but is also under pressure from the riders behind so there is everything to fight for. Matthias is not far off in fifth, just 18 points from the leader and as we have seen so far this season all the riders are really close in terms of their performance. We will be looking to maximise our points from the event, including stage victories, and try our best right to the end. Morocco also marks the last race before the Dakar Rally. It’s a good chance to make sure the bike and the team are working well and of course learn as much as we can in order to arrive at the Dakar as strong as possible. As such, all the riders and team members will be present at the Rally du Maroc, with the exception of Laia who is unfortunately still unwell.”
The racing and testing performed by the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing team through 2018 has culminated in the production of the KTM 450 RALLY REPLICA. Launched just last week, the bike provides a READY TO RACE option for those looking for the ultimate rally machine.
The Rally du Maroc Prologue commences on Thursday October 4, followed by five full days of racing in the Sahara Desert before the finish on October 9 in Fes, Morocco.
Championship Standings – 2018 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship after 4 of 5 races
1. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI), Husqvarna, 69 points
2. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 61 pts
3. Paulo Goncalves (PRT), Honda, 57 pts
4. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, 53 pts
5. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 51 pts
7. Maciej Giemza (POL), KTM, 42 pts
8. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 27 pts