First look: 2023 KTM Factory Racing Rally Team set for Dakar 2023
The three-rider Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team has officially launched ahead of the 2023 Dakar Rally – gallery of images and video of Toby Price, Kevin Benavides and Matthias Walkner prepping for the big one in Saudi Arabia.
With less than one month to go before the start of the Dakar, the KTM team are completing their final preparations before heading to Saudi Arabia for the 14-stage event beginning on December 31.
After a below par result (by KTM standards in the previous editions of the Dakar, the winningest manufacturer is aiming to get back on top again this year with the three-rider, five-times winning rider line up.
Toby Price has already reflected many times on the relatively minor road book issue at thestar of the ’22 Dakar which cost him so much. The Aussie followed that with plenty of time to reflect through the southern hemisphere winter but then suffered a crash in Morocco, which forced him to withdraw from the Rallye du Maroc while fighting for the win.
The two-times champ knows that anything can happen in rally and says he has already put a difficult year behind him to focus on the Dakar after a lot of development carried out to his KTM 450 RALLY machine over the summer. Confident that the navigation-focused 2023 Dakar will suit his skillset, Toby is fired-up to attack the formidable event.
Toby Price: “The 2022 Dakar didn’t quite go as planned for me. I had an issue right at the beginning on day one with one note in the road book, and that made it really tough to get back in contention with the front runners for the rest of the event. I know my pace was there, but rally can be tough and sometimes things just don’t go your way.
“We had a big gap in the middle of the year and put that to good use testing with the team. I felt great going into the Rallye du Maroc and my pace there was good, it’s just unfortunate a crash put an end to my race.
“We’ve got some more testing to do now in December ahead of a short break over Christmas, but then it’s straight back to it at the end of the year. I’ve had five podiums at the Dakar, and I know I have the pace to win – everything just needs to come together and I’m sure I can be up there fighting for another title.”
Kevin Benavides is focused on rewarding all the hard work put in this year at this, his second Dakar Rally with Red Bull KTM. The Argentinian has enjoyed a solid 2022 season with podium results in Chile and at the final world championship round in Spain. With another year of experience gained racing the KTM 450 RALLY, Benavides says he feels comfortable on the bike and heads to Saudi Arabia “confident and highly motivated”.
Kevin Benavides: “2022 has been really good for me and I’m excited to carry this feeling into the 2023 Dakar. Although my final result wasn’t great at the 2022 race, I know I had the speed to do better. Abu Dhabi was also tough with a technical issue near the end, but again I was well inside the top three on pace.
“After spending the summer testing with the team, we made a lot of changes to the bike, and they paid off with a podium at the Atacama Rally and a strong result in Morocco. Finishing as runner-up at the final round of the year was great and really helped to build my confidence ahead of 2023.
“I’ve been doing a lot of work with my trainer throughout the year and feel prepared both physically and mentally ahead of such a long Dakar. I’m looking forward to it and can hopefully secure another podium result for myself and the team.”
Matthias Walkner returns to rally competition for the first time since the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. The Austrian rider then underwent much-needed surgery on a shoulder injury that had been plaguing him. “Close to 100% fit”, the 2018 Dakar winner will also be aiming for a repeat victory at Dakar.
Matthias Walkner: “I’m really excited to take on my next Dakar Rally. It’s always a massive event for us and it’s the one you always want to win. With so many days racing, over so many kilometres, it’s definitely the toughest race on the calendar.
“It sounds like the organisers have planned an especially tough route for 2023, and with a few rule changes thrown in, I think the race will present a massive challenge. I’m still coming off a year where I missed a lot of races after receiving surgery to my shoulder, so hopefully I don’t get any issues there.
“But of course the goal is to win. I know I have an amazing team around me, and the bike is working really well right now – all the testing and development has really come together. The Dakar always throws up a few surprises, but I feel I’m super prepared for this one and I’m looking forward to getting started.”
Photo Credit: Sebas Romero