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


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

Ken Roczen signs with HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki for 2023

Roczen Progressive Ecstar Suzuki
Align Media

ANAHEIM, California – Ken Roczen will make the move from HRC Honda to H.E.P. Motorsports with the Progressive Ecstar Suzuki team, ending a long and eventful offseason that saw his split from his longstanding team after he committed to running World Supercross (WSX).

“H.E.P. Motorsports is thrilled to announce that the team has signed Ken Roczen as its premier rider for the 2023 season,” the team announced on Instagram. “Former AMA Motocross champion Roczen will be aboard a Suzuki RM-Z450. Roczen, who won his most recent championship on a Suzuki, will be reunited with the brand and bring his exciting style, determination, and grit back to the RM Army.

“Ken Roczen will compete in the upcoming 2023 Supercross and Motocross Championship series which is set to start on January 7 at Anaheim Stadium in Southern California.”

For Roczen, it is a return to the bike of his youth and on which he had some of his greatest professional success.

“This thing has been going on for weeks and weeks and weeks in the making, but there was so much uncertainty,” Roczen told NBC Sports during Monster Energy Supercross Media Sessions. “It was a very unique situation. I just finally signed two nights ago, so it’s really only legit once the ink hits the paper. It’s been in the works for a long time, but there were just a lot of questions and a lot of input from a lot of other teams too.

“Good things take time, and I’m okay with that. I grew up riding Suzuki. Ot’s like a homecoming. It’s a special feeling”

Roczen won the 2016 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship on a Suzuki before making the move to Honda. That year he won nine of 12 Nationals and finished no worse than second as he easily outpaced Eli Tomac by 86 points. He finished third in his next Pro Motocross outing in 2018 after sitting out the outdoor season in 2017.

“I am beyond excited to reconnect with Suzuki for the 3rd time in my career. We’ve had a lot of success in the past and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish together in our future.” Roczen said in the Instagram post.