Signing a two-year contract extension earlier in the year, Toby Price returns to rally competition this weekend in Morocco after being forced to withdraw from this year’s Dakar due to injury. The Australian will be looking to get back up to speed with his pace and navigation on the bike in Morocco and continue to test and develop the latest version of the rally machine.
The result of over two years’ development, the all-new 2022 KTM 450 Rally will make its first competitive outing in Morocco. With new bodywork, a new engine, a new frame, and many other upgrades and improvements over the current model, the state-of-the-art rally machine will continue to undergo testing and evaluation at the Rallye du Maroc.
“For sure I’m excited for the event here in Morocco – it’s been a long time since I’ve raced a rally since I was forced to miss the first two rounds of the season. The plan for the Rallye du Maroc is take things step-by-step and continue to build my speed while giving the new bike a proper shakedown. The main focus for me is to be back on form for the big one in January, but for now I’m just happy to be racing again and can’t wait to get back in the swing of things.”
Covering more than 2,600 kilometres and challenging riders with over 1,600 kilometres of timed special stages, the 2021 edition of the Rallye du Maroc will be based around the Moroccan town of Zagora.
Opening with a short 10-kilometre Prologue, the race will then deliver five long, full stages held on fast tracks and open desert. As well as outright speed, accurate navigation through the sand dunes and rocky pistes will be key to a strong final result.
Coming into the event with a healthy 20-point lead in the FIM Cross-Country Rallies standings, Matthias Walkner is in good shape to fight for his second world title. The Austrian topped the Silk Way Rally earlier in the year with a commanding performance that saw him take the lead by the midway point of the race before never looking back. That, combined with his runner-up result at Rally Kazakhstan, shows Walkner is on form and ready for the challenges that lie ahead in Morocco.
“Finally, after a three-month break, we’re ready to go racing again. It’s been a busy time in between the events as we spent around five weeks in America testing and training. That was really intense, but also very productive. I was really pleased with how I rode at the last round we raced in Russia and I’m hoping I can carry that form through to Morocco. My goal is to do my best as always, but hopefully enjoy a safe race. If all goes well, we should be close to the front at the end of the five days.”
Showing impressive pace at the 2021 Dakar Rally and earning himself a third-place podium finish, Sam Sunderland came into the first round of this year’s world championship keen to maintain his momentum. Unfortunately, a crash on the final day in Kazakhstan resulted in the Brit being unable to continue. Now back on the bike and close to 100 percent, Sunderland hopes to use the Rallye du Maroc to build his speed while testing the new 2022 KTM 450 RALLY.
“It’s been a little while since my last race, so I’m looking forward to Morocco. It’s always been an important race due to the type of terrain, and it also being quite close to Dakar on the calendar. I’m going to be riding the new bike, so I’m really keen to see how that performs under race conditions. Obviously, there are still some changes and adjustments to be made, and the boys have been doing a lot of hard work to get it ready. But there’s no test quite as good as the stresses of competition. Personally, I’m feeling good and pretty much back to full fitness after my little upside-downer in Kazakhstan, so I’m really excited to get back to it.”
Making his competitive debut for Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, Kevin Benavides will be using the Rallye du Maroc to not only continue adapting to the KTM 450 RALLY, but also settle into the team in race conditions. The 2021 Dakar winner signed to KTM in April but was unable to attend the opening two rounds of the world championship due to injury. Now back to his best and keen to build his speed during the final two rounds of the championship, Benavides is fully focused on defending his Dakar title come January 2022.
“For me, this is going to the first race with the KTM team, so of course I’m really excited, but also extra motivated to do well – I feel like a new rider and I’m really looking forward to getting started. At the beginning of the year, after signing with the team, the world championship was my main goal, but unfortunately after injury that was impossible. Now, looking ahead to this race and Abu Dhabi in November, these last two races of the year will be more about training and getting to grips with the new KTM. On the positive side, I don’t feel any pressure now, of course I want to do well and plan to focus on my navigation and rhythm, but it means I have time to properly settle into the team, get to know everyone, and enjoy these two events ahead of Dakar in January.”
Covering six days of racing, round four of the 2021 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship – the Rallye du Maroc – kicks off in Morocco from October 8-13.
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