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The 2021 Dakar Rally with KTM Team Manager Jordi Viladoms and Standings

KTM team manager Jordi Viladoms says that the end of the Austrian manufacturer’s Dakar Rally winning streak will mean any future success will be “valued more”.

Last year’s inaugural running of the Dakar in Saudi Arabia marked the first time KTM had been defeated in the motorcycle category since 2000, as Honda man Ricky Brabec’s victory put an end to the Mattighofen firm’s streak of 18 consecutive wins.

However, Viladoms believes that such a massive run of success had the effect of making KTM’s success appear easy to outsiders, something he says will no longer be the case.

“After losing the winning streak, it is something that, if I see with perspective, was positive,” Viladoms told Motorsport.com. “Because when we win again, it will be valued more.

“It seemed that [winning] was an easy thing and it was never easy. They always made it very difficult for us and in the end last year they succeeded. It has been a good injection of motivation. This has made us stronger, no doubt.”

KTM heads into the 2021 edition of the Dakar with a familiar main factory line-up comprising three past winners of the event: Toby Price, Mathias Walkner and Sam Sunderland.

Luciano Benavides meanwhile has transferred over to sister marque Husqvarna, joining Pablo Quintanilla and Yamaha convert Xavier de Soultrait at the squad.

Price, Walkner and Sunderland will be supported in the factory team by Australian newcomer Daniel Sanders, who made his KTM debut in October’s Andalusian Rally warm-up event and scored a stage win en route to 11th overall.

Two-time Dakar champion Price was KTM’s highest-placed finisher in Andalusia in fourth place, 12 minutes shy of event winner Kevin Benavides of Honda.

Viladoms believes that Honda’s reigning champion Brabec goes into the 2021 edition as the rider to beat, despite the American having only finished 14th in Andalusia.

“The team is coming along very well, we have different profiles of riders with different qualities, but we are very happy,” said Viladoms. “In the last training sessions we worked a lot on tuning the bike, navigation, made many days of running in the desert.

“In the end, at least they, given the circumstances, arrive in good shape. The other teams have also worked a lot and we continue to put pressure on each other.

“It is clear that the rider to beat is Ricky Brabec, he proved last year that he can do very well and is the one who has most chances. They won last year and they are the reference, we have to try to take the trophy away from them.”

Dakar 2021, Stage 1: Price grabs lead, Brabec struggles

Toby Price began his quest for a third Dakar Rally title by winning the opening stage of the 2021 edition, while defending champion Ricky Brabec suffered a difficult first day.
Honda rider Brabec opened the road on the 277km timed section from Jeddah to Bisha following his victory on Saturday’s short Prologue stage, but hit navigational trouble almost immediately as he dropped more than 13 minutes in the opening 37km.

Things didn’t get any better for the American rider after that, who completed the stage having dropped 18 minutes and 32 seconds to KTM rival Price.

Ninth on the Prologue, Price grabbed the lead from Xavier de Soultrait at the 135km mark and finished the stage with 31 seconds in hand over Honda’s Kevin Benavides, giving himself a slender lead of 23 seconds in the overall classification.

De Soultrait – who has switched from Yamaha to KTM sister brand Husqvarna for the 2021 edition – led the opening 92km through the first three waypoints, but couldn’t keep up that pace and ended up sixth at the finish, 4m35s down on Price.

Grabbing the final spot on the podium was KTM’s Matthias Walkner, just one second behind Benavides (1m12s behind Price overall), while Sam Sunderland made it three KTM riders in the top four, 2m03s back (4m11s back overall).

Lorenzo Santolino was an impressive fifth for Sherco, while Yamaha’s top finisher on the stage was Franco Caimi in seventh place, although he sits sixth ahead of de Soultrait overall.

As well as Brabec, Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) and Joan Barreda (Honda) got their campaigns off to a bad start, likewise getting lost early on in the special.

Both lost around 15 minutes, leaving them outside of the top 20 provisionally.

Standings after Stage 1 (top 10):

1 Australia Toby Price
2 Argentina Kevin Benavides
3 Austria Matthias Walkner
4 United Kingdom Sam Sunderland
5 Spain Lorenzo Santolino Sherco
6 Argentina Franco Caimi Yamaha
7 France Xavier de Soultrait
8 United States Skyler Howes
9 Argentina Luciano Benavides
10 United States Andrew Short

Posted on Sunday, January 3rd, 2021 in News

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