AFTER securing KTM’s 17th consecutive Dakar title on Saturday, Austrian Matthias Walker has taken to social media to celebrate.
The 31-year-old secured his maiden Dakar win following one of the toughest rallys in recent years. Over the course of two weeks, bad weather saw two of the 14 stages cancelled, and a number of the leading riders succumb to injury and mechanical issues, retiring from the race.
Walkner took the race lead after the 10th stage, ahead of Honda’s Kevin Benavides and his KTM teammate Toby Price. Despite finishing eighth in Saturday’s 120km final stage, he had enough pace overall to finish 16 minutes and 53 seconds ahead of Benavides, albeit with a one-minute penalty.
Speaking after the race, the Austrian commented: ‘It’s really, really amazing. 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.’
Just as Sam Sunderland last year became the first Brit to take the Dakar title since the race began in 1977, Walkner’s title makes him the first Austrian rider to win – an especially sweet victory considering he did so on an Austrian bike.
It’s unbelievable! I can’t describe how it feels. This year’s Dakar has been easily the toughest rally of my career. Thank you to my team and everyone that has supported me – we did it @KTM_Racing @KTMKINISHOP @redbullmotors @officialleatt @QUABUS_GmbH @ride100percent @dakar pic.twitter.com/Nv1tsUF4K6
— Matthias Walkner (@MatthiasWalkner) 21 January 2018
He shared his jubilation with fans online, while his team, fellow competitors and motorcycling organisations congratulated him:
— KTM Factory Racing (@KTM_Racing) 21 January 2018
The @dakarrally is a tough race to crack with many twists and turns and no matter what stories are along the way the man who wins is the man who wins, I’m really happy for my friend @matthias_walkner and team @ktmfactoryracing the fact they managed to get it figured out 17 times in a row is something unreal... #redbull #ktm
— FIM (@FIM_live) 22 January 2018