Matthias Walkner Wins The 2017 OiLibya Morocco Rally
Topping the standings on the sixth and final day of competition in Morocco’s OiLibya Rally, it was steadfast KTM rider Matthias Walkner who came out on top of the last round of the 2017 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship. Collecting valuable points, the Austrian rider moved up to third in the series’ final standings behind Husqvarna’s Pablo Quintanilla and Honda’s Kevin Benavides.
“It’s been a long event and I’m really happy that I won it, the Austrian said from the finish line. “During the last few days we were faced with overflowing rivers, long stages with tricky navigation and a series of other things that could have completely changed the outcome of the event. This is my first victory in the championship and it feels good.”
“The new bike has given me a lot of confidence to push and take my riding into a new level. I’m happy with my performance here in Morocco and this is very important heading into the Dakar Rally now. It makes the next three months a lot easier for me. The team have done an awesome job and we are all looking forward to the Dakar Rally.”
Honda’s Kevin Benavides went in search of victory throughout the race, knowing that in doing so, he could also snatch the world title. However, a minor error was enough to cause him to miss out on the chance of winning the special. The second position in the OiLibya Morocco Rally however meant that the Argentinean rider sealed runner-up spot in the overall world championship standings.
Meanwhile, Paulo Gonçalves also returned to his home in Esposende ahead of schedule. The Portuguese, who had arrived in Fez as a potential contender just five points behind the leader of the overall championship, suffered a fall during the second stage injuring his right hand. The pain forced him to retire after finishing the third day of racing.
Ultimately however, the day was Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Racing Team’s Pablo Quintanilla, who sealed the championship by just 3 points.
Successfully defending the title he won in 2016, the FR 450 Rally mounted rider wrapped up the 2017 OiLibya Morocco Rally with a top six result in the event’s final overall standings to steal the championship from Kevin Benavides.
“I’m over the moon with securing this title, Quintanilla said post race. “This year’s Morocco Rally has been a tough one and with all the incidents on day two I had to dig really deep to defend my championship. I did my best to remain focused until the end as my main goal was to be world champion again. Everything went well and I never lost my focus. Overall, I felt very strong racing here in Morocco. I felt strong with my navigation and the bike, and this is very important for the coming Dakar Rally. I just want to thank all the members of the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna team for their hard work and dedication. We’ve all worked really hard during the season and this title is the best reward for all the sacrifices.”
The FIM XC Rallies Championship returns on January 6th next year with arguably the biggest event of the year, the 2018 Dakar Rally.
Final Standings – 2017 OiLibya Rally of Morocco
1. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 10:03:49
2. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, 10:17:31 +13:42
3. Ricky Brabec (USA), Honda, 10:20:47 +16:58
4. Antoine Meo (FRA), KTM, 10:22:16 +18:27
5. Joan Pedrero (ESP), Sherco, 10:26:17 +22:28
Final Standings – 2017 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship
1. Pablo Quintanilla (CHL), Husqvarna, 100pts
2. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, 97pts
3. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 94pts
4. Paulo Goncalves (POR), Honda, 85pts
5. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 84pts