Walkner Realises Dream with Maiden Dakar Rally Class Victory

by Paul Hensby

Matthias Walkner secured his maiden Dakar Rally victory on Saturday, and felt luck was on his side in 2018, with the Red Bull KTM Factory Team rider realizing his dream despite only taking one stage win along the way.

The Austrian finished the final stage of the rally down in eighth position, but such was his advantage at the front of the field, thanks to his storming stage ten win on Tuesday, the five minutes and thirty-eight seconds he lost to stage winner Kevin Benavides meant he still beat the Argentine by sixteen minutes and fifty-three seconds overall.

After being injured during the 2016 event, Walkner returned to the Dakar Rally in 2017 and finished second to KTM team-mate Sam Sunderland, and he went one better in 2018, although he admitted he was not expecting the victory.

“It’s really, really amazing,” said Walkner on RedBull.com. “I was never thinking that I really could win. The goal was to stay on the podium, but it was so close this year and day ten was a key day.

“Maybe luck was on my side this time, but it’s really a dream come true. It was a really crazy Dakar. The riding level was so high. There were five other people who could have won it but it looks like I was the lucky one. I was surely a little bit lucky.

“I think that on the Dakar you need a bit of luck on but sometimes you have it and sometimes you don’t have it. This time it was on my side. In 2016 after my bad injury, that changed a lot for me. It’s so cool to be back here.”

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