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Dakar Rally: Walkner thinks podium is ‘realistic’

Dakar Rally

KTM driver Matthias Walkner is aiming for a podium finish in the Dakar Rally (December 31st to January 15th) despite not racing after shoulder surgery. “I’m ready as I can be. I can tick off everything I’ve planned. I’m going to Saudi Arabia and I’m feeling very good and I’m very excited,” said the third edition of the latest Dakar before leaving. The goal is to finish on the podium again. “It’s also very realistic,” Walkner said.

His recent training camps in Mexico and the United States ended up being promising. “After a long break, the last practice session was very important. We worked a lot on the setup and really used the last test in the US to get a better feel for the new bike. It took a little longer than expected, but it paid off. said the year-old 36 years old: “I feel really good on the bike.”

Despite the imperfect preparation, the 2018 overall winner is optimistic. “Of course I miss my competition days due to shoulder surgery, but if I can pull off the coaching achievements, I don’t have to worry.” Shoulder surgery in August shouldn’t cause any problems. “I think I’ve got it under control so far and it won’t hold me back in the Dakar.”

GEPA/ZUMA/LPS/Florent Gooden Press

Walkner (right) finished his prestigious tour last year behind Sam Sunderland (center) and Pablo Quintanilla (left) on the podium.

Walkner criticizes changing the rules

Walkner isn’t thrilled with the ever-changing set of rules, which this time contain newly introduced “reverse roadbooks” with randomly different paths. “All in all, I’m afraid the ever-changing rules will make our sport less accessible. The rules are really so complex that the whole team struggles to understand them,” Walkner said.

The spelling of the Road Book also changes every year and one cannot adapt to it. “Testing all this in the most important race of the year and returning it without any experience is really daring.”

Walkner heads to Saudi Arabia on December 28, where the 36-year-old will make his ninth Dakar start with a prelude on New Year’s Eve. The fourth edition continues in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia until January 15 in 14 stages at a distance of 8,500 km, of which 4,700 have been counted.