Finishing stage two of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge as runner-up, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Matthias Walkner has moved into the provisional event lead with three days left to race.

At 470.58 kilometers, the second stage of the rally was the longest of the five-day event, and featured a 333-kilometer timed special that challenged competitors with rolling sand dunes and faster, desert tracks – the usual variety of terrain seen at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.

Following his excellent ride to second place on day one, Matthias Walkner soon found himself opening stage two, having caught day one winner Ross Branch. The two riders battled it out for the first half of the stage, swapping positions at the front, right up to the refueling station.

Tuesday’s stage three of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge covers a total distance of 327.62 kilometers and will see riders take on a timed special of 293 kilometers.

In the second half of the special, Walkner continued to push over the mixed terrain, and in doing so, left his rivals behind. The reigning FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Champion used his extensive skill and experience to maintain his speed and position, despite navigating his own way through the sand.

Bringing his KTM 450 RALLY home safely to the finish as second fastest for the day, Matthias moves up into the provisional lead of the event, over two-and-a-half minutes ahead of his nearest rival. With three days left to race, Walkner will set off second on tomorrow’s stage, aiming to maintain his overall advantage.

Matthias Walkner: “Another day done, and it was a tough one! Setting off this morning I thought that by the end of the stage most of the riders behind would have caught up with those opening the special. At the refueling we could see that wasn’t the case, so Ross and I decided to keep pushing to see if we could stay out front. We took it in turns to open with each rider leading the way for 30km or so. For the last 100km I found myself alone out front and just gave it my all. I really was pushing hard and, thankfully, everything went well, and I was able to bring it home for a good, safe finish. The long stage took it out of me, so I’ll try to relax now and recharge before tomorrow.”

Provisional Results – Stage 2 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge 2021
1. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), Yamaha, 4:24:34
2. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 4:26:56 +2:22
3. Daniel Sanders (AUS), GASGAS, 4:27:35 +3:01
4. Ross Branch (BWA), Yamaha, 4:32:36 +8:02
5. Aaron Mare (RSA), KTM, 4:40:16 +15:42

STORY: Matthias Walkner gewinnt die Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge (November 2021)
STORY: Daniel Sanders Wins Abu Dhabi Stage Three (November 2021)
STORY: Matthias Walkner Clinches KTM’s Third Consecutive FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship (October 2021)

photos (c) Rally Zone