Matthias Walkner certainly imagined the first weekend of the Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia very differently. Instead of getting involved in the fight for the best time after the prologue on the first stage, the KTM rider from Salzburg became the first responder when last year’s winner Sam Sunderland (GasGas) fell after around 50 of 367 kilometers in front of him. The Walkner, which started a minute later, was the first to reach the scene of the accident. “He didn’t move much. It was a difficult moment for me to watch the race end for him,” said the 36-year-old. According to the organizer, Sunderland was responsive and mobile after the accident. He was flown to a hospital and is said to have sustained a shoulder injury and a concussion.
After the incident while waiting for the rescue helicopter, Walkner faced a challenging remaining stage. “Of course it was very difficult for me to get back into my racing rhythm, something like that drives you all day long. It was very difficult to assess where I was with my pace,” said the third-placed last year, who did not take full risk and lost about 18 minutes to day’s winner Ricky Brabec (USA/Honda). Due to a time credit for his first aid service, the gap in the overall standings shrank to five and a half minutes. Australian Daniel Sanders (GasGas) took the overall lead in the motorcycles.
After the first leg, Carlos Sainz with his Audi leads the cars. Sebastian Loeb lies in wait with the Hunter T1 behind the Spaniard, third is Mattias Ekström (Audi).
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I am Pierce Boyd, a driven and ambitious professional working in the news industry. I have been writing for 24 Hours Worlds for over five years, specializing in sports section coverage. During my tenure at the publication, I have built an impressive portfolio of articles that has earned me a reputation as an experienced journalist and content creator.