A shakedown test on Friday saw the team carry out final adjustments to their KTM 450 Rally machines as the riders reacquainted themselves with the soft sandy terrain in Peru. A series of briefings, scrutineering and administrative checks over the next couple of days leading up to the ceremonial start on Sunday evening.
On Monday, 7th of January, the 41st edition of the rally kicks off with a 331-kilometre opening stage, taking riders from the Peruvian capital city of Lima to Pisco. A short 84-kilometre timed special stage will give the competitors their first competitive taste of the conditions in the Peruvian desert.
Four further days of racing leading up to the rest day in Arequipa on the 12th of January before the final five stages complete the rally. When the riders arrive back in Lima after the 10th and final stage, they will have covered a total of more than 5,500 kilometres and raced close to 3,000 kilometres of timed special.
Reigning Dakar Rally champion Matthias Walkner comes into the event following a strong 2018 season. The Austrian is proud to display the number one on his KTM and is fired up to defend his title over the ten days of racing.
Walkner had this to say ahead of the race, “I am feeling good going into the event. I was a little ill over the Christmas period, but I’ll be fit and healthy for the race. Preparation up to now has gone well, and I’m looking forward to riding with the number one plate on my bike.
Riding as number one gives me more motivation than pressure, guys who have never won the event have more stress. It’s going to be a different Dakar this year, I usually prefer a wider variety of terrain, but I’m keen to give it my all and hopefully claim another good result at the end of the ten days.”
Following a small crash in testing just over one month ago, Toby Price injured his wrist and faced a huge challenge to be fit enough to race. Despite the setback, the 2018 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Champion is confident in his strength and plans to fight for the win in Peru.
“Things are looking good here in Lima, the team have been working hard on the run-up to the event, and now it’s time for us to deliver,” said Price.
“Generally, I’m feeling good and well prepared, my arm isn’t quite 100% perfect – it still gives me some pain from time to time – but I am confident it’s strong enough not to cause me any issues in the race.
I don’t know what to expect from the race, it’s going to be a hard one to judge, and we won’t know how it plays out until we get out there. It’s going to be tough to pull time on the others if you are starting out front as we all know it’s often easier to follow the tracks in front through the sand.
There is scope for some big mistakes as navigation could prove tricky. I’m looking forward to the sand, to be honest, I ride well in the dunes, and it could be a little easier on my wrist.”
2017 Dakar Champion Sam Sunderland has displayed good pace all year and is keen to secure his second title. Fully fit and ready to take on the dunes of Peru, the sand specialist is looking forward to the race.
Sunderland told reporters, “I have had an excellent final build-up to the race, and I’m feeling fit and healthy. We’ve got a lot of tough kilometres ahead of us, but I am excited to get going and see what I can do. The strategy is going to be very important.
With so much of the race ridden in the sand, making the most of your start position is going to be huge. The Peruvian dunes are some of the toughest to ride in the world. The light-coloured sand can often be tricky to see properly, especially when the sun is high in the sky – navigation is going to be tricky but massively important. It’s difficult to know what to expect, but I know I will go out there and do my best, as always.”
The final preparations for the 2019 Dakar Rally continue over the weekend with administrative checks carried out on Sunday the 6th of January, followed by the spectacular ceremonial start.
Stage one of the rally commences on Monday the 7th of January with riders leaving the city of Lima and travelling south to Pisco.
An 84-kilometre timed special will open the event with all competitors covering a total of 331 kilometres for the day.