The Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Racing Team on Friday celebrated a great conclusion to the season with an overall victory in the Morocco Rally by British rider Sam Sunderland and above all, by team colleague Matthias Walkner who won the 2015 FIM World Cross-Country Rallies Championship.
After the retirement of championship leader Marc Coma in the summer Walkner went into the final rally with just two points separating him and team colleague Pablo Quintanilla for the world title.
Matthias Walkner: “Luckily everything went extremely well for me today. I was able to take the lead at the 40 km mark and then I really went for those final two points and managed to have a small advantage. I had to wait 15 minutes at the refueling stop and when Pablo did not arrive (he had a small crash and was only slightly injured), I knew I was going well. I tried not to make any mistakes and more or less rode comfortably to the finish.”
Sunderland was also second in the World Championship and the now retired former KTM factory teammate Coma was third.
Alex Doringer, KTM’s Division Manager Enduro and Rally was particularly pleased with his team, saying: “This was a great way to wrap up our season with Sam (Sunderland) taking the victory in Morocco and above all, with Matthias (Walkner) wrapping up the world title in his first full year of competition with the team. Matthias did a fantastic job and improved dramatically in a very short time. We had our share of problems in Morocco, with a number of our team suffering stomach problems, but I think with these results we have more than proved that we are the best team in the world. As team, manufacturer and company we can be very proud to now have an Austrian Rally World Champion.”
Sunderland went into the final stage with ten minutes 46 seconds advantage over KTM teammate Pablo Quintanilla of Chile. Quintanilla’s crash in the final stage effectively handed both the overall victory to Sunderland and the world title to Walkner. The young Austrian, who raced his first Dakar Rally for KTM in January 2015, also made it a great fight for the overall Morocco Rally victory with Sunderland and finished only 34 seconds short of his teammate in the final reckoning. Walkner has shown great resilience and huge fighting spirit throughout the current season.
The factory team’s two other riders, Jordi Viladoms(ESP) and Toby Price(AUS) were struck down with the debilitating stomach bug mid-way through the rally and were unable to contest the final stages.
Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Racing’s latest recruit, Antoine Meo of France made his rally debut in Morocco, and despite missing one stage through illness, can still be satisfied with his performance. Meo wound up his week’s racing on a high note by finishing sixth in the final stage and at the same time celebrated a successful transition from the world of enduro sport to rally raid.
KTM Rally Factory Racing’s women competitor Laia Sanz, a proven Dakar Rally rider, also went out on a high note and was eleventh in the final stage. After a technical issue in the opening stage where she picked up a hefty time penalty, Sanz use the rest of the rally to put in a maximum amount of competitive track time ahead of the Dakar Rally.
The Morocco Rally was essential preparation for the Dakar Rally 2016 in January. The Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Racing riders and their KTM Rally Factory Racing colleagues all ride the KTM 450 RALLY.
Rally of Morocco Final Round of FIM World Cross Countries Rally Championship 2015
Stage Five Results Loop of Agadir – 316 km of which 237 km is timed special
1. Paolo Goncalves (POR) Honda, three hours 35 minutes
2. Helder Rodrigues (POR) Yamaha, + 5 minutes 46
3. Matthias Walkner (AUT) KTM, + 6.48 4. Sam Sunderland (GBR) KTM, +10.35 5. Olivier Pain (FRA) KTM, + 10.37 Other KTM
6. Antoine Meo (FRA) KTM, + 11.15
10. Laia Sanz (ESP) KTM, + 15.21
Final Overall Results 1, Sunderland, 15 hours 38.00 2. Walkner + 00.34 (2015 FIM World Cross-country Rallies Champion) 3. Goncalves, + 29.08
4. Faria, +56.38
5. Benavides, + 59.15
FIM World Cross-Country Rallies Championship
1. Walkner KTM 87 points (World Champion) 2. Sunderland KTM 80 3. Marc Coma KTM 70 (now retired) 4. Goncalves 69 5. Quintanilla, KTM 65