Day one of the Desafio Ruta 40 – the longest of the event – got underway early on Monday morning under clear blue skies. The stage saw riders leave the bivouac for a 162.34km liaison before entering the day’s 286.51km timed special. With the route covering a wide variety of terrain including fast hard pack and difficult river crossings, good road book and bike handling skills were necessary to safely navigate through the tricky stage.

Matthias Walkner

Matthias Walkner, having won the previous day’s short prologue, chose to set off 14th away from the start near the city of San Miguel de Tucumán. After catching and passing a number of quads ahead of him on the stage, the reigning Dakar Rally Champion then rode a solitary race, maintaining a good rhythm whilst trying to minimise any mistakes on the treacherous route. Walkner’s time of four hours and two minutes was enough to claim third on the day’s timesheets.

Matthias Walkner: “We know Argentina can be tough and today was no different. I am pleased with my riding today, although it was difficult to know exactly how my pace was as I rode most of the stage alone. A lot of the timed special was similar to last year with off-piste sections and rivers. Nevertheless, I’m happy with third on the first day and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

Toby Price

Despite suffering a minor technical issue with his GPS, Toby Price still posted the fourth fastest time for the day, less than one minute slower than team-mate Walkner. Hoping for more consistency with his navigation, Price will be aiming to increase his pace on tomorrow’s stage two.

Toby Price: “Everything was going great at first today, right up to the first fuel stop at kilometre 193. My GPS was struggling to find a signal and I ended up losing some time. All-in-all I am happy because I know I was riding well, it’s just frustrating to lose out through no fault of your own. Hopefully everything will be sorted for tomorrow and I can keep to a good pace.”

Luciano Benavides

In his first full competitive rally stage since injuring his back at this year’s Dakar Rally, Luciano Benavides put in a brave performance to finish the day in sixth position. Happy with how his day went, Luciano now hopes to build his confidence further over the remaining stages of the rally.

Luciano Benavides: “As a whole, the first stage has gone really well for me, it’s great to be back racing on my KTM 450 RALLY and I am pleased my pace is good. I did lose a little time at the beginning of the stage and went about three kilometres off-track, but thankfully I was able to quickly find my way back again. Overall, I am feeling good in myself, I suffered a little arm-pump towards the end, but my back is feeling fine. I’ll aim to find a good rhythm again tomorrow and keep working on navigation.”

The 413.82km second stage of the rally includes a long 317.74km timed special on the route from Belen to Tinogasta. (source: red bull ktm factory racing)

STORY: Toby Price fastest on tough Desafio Ruta 40 stage 2
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LINK: Desafio Ruta 40

photos (c) Rally Zone