A new world champion is crowned on the desert sands of Rallye du Maroc

A new world champion is crowned on the desert sands of Rallye du Maroc

The Red Bull Desert Wings squad are celebrating yet another world title after victory over the testing terrain of the 2021 Rallye du Maroc. Austrian biker Matthias Walkner of Red Bull KTM Factory Racing secured his second FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship with an impressive ride over five long stages in Morocco.

Second place at Rally Kazakhstan and a win at the Silk Way Rally earlier in the year had put Walkner on the verge of reclaiming the World Championship he first won in 2015. The KTM Factory biker arrived in Morocco knowing a podium finish could wrap up the championship in his favour with a race to spare.

Over 2,500km of testing terrain stood between Walkner and his objective, but the 2018 Dakar Rally winner rode with a calm assurance to finish the rally second, less than two minutes behind winner Pablo Quintanilla of Chile. Walkner’s third consecutive podium finish of the season was enough to see him crowned FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship at the finish line.

“I had really, really good days here in Morocco. The team did an amazing job and the bike was working well. To win the overall World Championship title feels super, super cool and I will enjoy this moment.” – Matthias Walkner

Walkner was joined at the finish line by team-mates Kevin Benavides (ARG) and Toby Price (AUS) who also put in plenty in valuable kilometres ahead of next January’s Dakar. Sam Sunderland (GBR), the fourth Red Bull KTM Factory Racing biker at Rallye du Maroc, withdrew on Stage Four while feeling unwell.

“It’s good to get the first rally back under the belt after a long time off the bike and now we look forward to Abu Dhabi. We’ll see what we can do there.” – Toby Price

History was made in Morocco by Australian biker Daniel Sanders as his third place result gave GasGas Factory Racing their first-ever World Championship podium finish. Sanders will race next month’s Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge aiming to secure a runners-up result in the 2021 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship. It’s been a remarkable debut season for the best placed rookie at the 2021 Dakar.

“I finished strong and carried on getting better and better each day at this rally. I’m totally stoked to get GasGas their first World Championship podium.” – Daniel Sanders

Over in the car race it was display of utter domination from Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) and co-driver Mathieu Baumel (FRA) from start to finish. The Toyota Hilux duo set the fastest time on four of the five desert stages in Morocco to end up winning the rally by over 15 minutes.

The victory gives the Toyota Gazoo Racing pair their sixth win together at Rallye du Maroc and brings Al-Attiyah to the cusp of his fifth FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies (and fourth alongside Baumel).

“We were fastest on all but one stage and built a big lead. We take a lot of good things from this race to bring to the next Dakar.” – Nasser Al-Attiyah

There were plenty of ups and downs in Morocco for the crews of Mattias Ekström (SWE)/Emil Bergkvist (SWE) and Kuba Przygoński (POL)/ Timo Gottschalk (GER). Przygoński drove his MINI JCW Buggy to a string of podium stage results after a tough opening stage. Meanwhile, Ekström had his MINI JCW Rally car in contention for the overall podium until running into trouble on the fifth and final stage of the rally.

There were plenty more lessons learned by the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team at their latest rally. Cristina Gutiérrez (ESP) led the T3 category going into the penultimate stage, but her bid for victory was undone by transmission problems.

“I stay with the positive, it was my first Rallye du Maroc and I felt at home, being very consistent and with a good rhythm, finishing every day in very good positions in the general classification.” – Cristina Gutiérrez

Gutiérrez’s fellow Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team driver Seth Quintero (USA) endured a couple of tough opening days before picking up a stage win on day three. Both Gutiérrez and Quintero put their problems behind them to finish off Rallye du Maroc with strong Stage Five performances.

“We got stuck with 60km to go [of the final stage]. When we got going again we made up close to six minutes. We were just going for it and it was pretty gnarly.” – Seth Quintero

The Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team will be back in action at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge next month with Gutiérrez still chasing FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies glory.

 

Find full Rallye du Maroc results here.

QUOTES

Matthias Walkner: “It was a super, super cool rally for me. I had really, really good days here in Morocco. I tried my best today to keep my first position but finally Pablo [Quintanilla] was super strong. Around 100km I had two small mistakes which cost me one and a half minutes. So it was P2 in the end. The team did an amazing job and the bike was working well. To win the overall World Championship title feels super, super cool and I will enjoy this moment.”

Daniel Sanders: “ I got to open today and that was really cool. The first 80km went good and after that I had to focus on my navigation. I had one crash in the dunes, I went head first into the sand and the bike landed on me. After that I had a face full of sand in the goggles so I had to regroup and get back into a good rhythm. I carried on opening the way. I didn’t make any big mistakes and slowed down when I needed to. I finished strong and carried on getting better and better each day at this rally. I’m totally stoked to get GasGas their first World Championship podium.”

Kevin Benavides: “I finished OK and I had good sensations with the new bike during the race. This helps to bring back my confidence. I know where improvements can be made to get back in front. I want to thank all the team for their effort in Morocco. Now we’re one step closer to the Dakar.”

Toby Price: “It’s good to get finished and be leaving Morocco in one piece. The last stage was OK. We picked up a speeding penalty but all in all we can’t complain with how things went. It’s good to get the first rally back under the belt after a long time off the bike and now we look forward to Abu Dhabi. We’ll see what we can do there.”

Nasser Al-Attiyah: “This is one of the toughest races in the world. We were enjoying ourselves, and when you enjoy yourself you tend to go faster and faster. We took things day by day and did a really good job. We were fastest on all but one stage and built a big lead. We take a lot of good things from this race to bring to the next Dakar.”

Cristina Gutiérrez: “Yesterday was a hard day. At 130km the gearbox broke and we couldn’t continue… I stay with the positive, it was my first Rallye du Maroc and I felt at home, being very consistent and with a good rhythm, finishing every day in very good positions in the general classification. I want more, to continue and above all to enjoy.”

Seth Quintero: “We got on an awesome run today and we were really cruising along. We were up by a couple of minutes. Then we got stuck with 60km to go. When we got going again we made up close to six minutes. We were just going for it and it was pretty gnarly.”