Dakar: Matthias Walkner takes first career stage win in bikes (VIDEO)

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Austrian rider and Dakar Rally rookie Matthias Walkner scored a surprise first win in Stage 3 on Tuesday by 40 seconds over defending champion and fellow KTM rider Marc Coma.

Following Monday’s Stage 2, which was the longest stage of the entire rally and judged as exceptionally difficult, Dakar officials decided to shorten Tuesday’s run and halt a number of riders that had not yet reached the third checkpoint.

For these riders, officials applied a fixed time, with the slowest time recorded between CP3 and the finish of the special used as a reference. Since this time represented 51 percent of the total time that these riders took, they had 51 percent of their time between the start and CP3 added to give them their overall stage times.

Walkner reached the second checkpoint within one minute of the overall bike class leader, Honda’s Joan Barreda, before out-hustling both Coma and Joan Barreda (third place on Tuesday, +1:53) to the finish.

“I already had a good feeling when I got to the finish because I knew I had a good day,” Walkner said in a KTM release. “But at the end, I was a bit tired and wasn’t concentrating so well and I made some small mistakes. It is an amazing feeling to win the stage and for sure, I didn’t expect this.

“It will be difficult to open the piste tomorrow. Now for the rest of the rally, I just want to enjoy every kilometer, to learn and to stay focused on the road book so I don’t make many mistakes.”

As for Coma, he was unable to make up ground partly due to the relatively short distance of the stage. However, with the first trip into Chile’s Atacama Desert coming in Wednesday’s Stage 4, he expects things to shift in his favor.

“Tomorrow, the skyline of the rally completely changes,” said Coma, who peeled one minute off Barreda’s overall lead and sits fourth behind “Bang Bang,” Paulo Goncalves (+5:33), and Walkner (+10:33).

“We arrive in the open desert and the sand dunes, where I feel more comfortable. Everything is possible.”

While perhaps not as vicious as Monday’s outing, Tuesday’s stage still required a lot of precision as Barreda noted.

“It was a stage where you really had to have your wits about you,” he said in a Honda statement. “[Coma] could have made up a lot of time, if I had made any navigational errors. The final part was full of stones, broken track, and many traps, so you had to be really careful with both the riding and the navigation.

“I kept up a good pace, and I felt pretty good, but I thought it was better not to take any risks in the final section.”

Toby Price, another KTM rider, continued his solid early form with a fourth-place finish on Tuesday, and Goncalves rounded out the Top-5 riders.

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2015 Dakar Rally continues Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET. For a full Dakar TV schedule, CLICK HERE.

2015 Dakar Rally – Overall Standings, Motorcycles
(After Stage 3 – San Juan to Chilecito)

1. 2-Joan Barreda (Honda), 9hrs, 43mins, 5secs
2. 7-Paulo Goncalves (Honda), +5mins, 33secs
3. 27-Matthias Walkner (KTM), +10mins, 33secs
4. 1-Marc Coma (KTM), +10mins, 50secs
5. 11-Ruben Faria (KTM), +12mins, 10secs
6. 26-Toby Price (KTM), +12mins, 24secs
7. 4-Jordi Viladoms (KTM), +14mins, 7secs
8. 12-Jeremias Israel (Honda), +18mins, 33secs
9. 5-Helder Rodrigues (Honda), +18mins, 34secs
10. 10-Juan Pedrero (Yamaha), +23mins, 2secs