Walkner unhappy with guesswork in Dakar 2017 navigation

KTM factory rider Matthias Walkner has dubbed the navigation of the 2017 Dakar Rally “strange”, saying it had gone beyond a fair challenge.

Walkner unhappy with guesswork in Dakar 2017 navigation
#14 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing: Sam Sunderland
#14 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing: Sam Sunderland
Sam Sunderland, Red Bull KTM Factory Team
#14 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing: Sam Sunderland
#16 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing: Matthias Walkner
#14 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing: Sam Sunderland
#16 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing: Matthias Walkner
#3 Husqvarna Factory Racing: Pablo Quintanilla
#14 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing: Sam Sunderland
Matthias Walkner, KTM Factory Team

Having won the Jujuy–Tupiza stage on Thursday, Walkner opened the road for Friday's run to Oruro – and the Austrian wound up dropping half an hour to new rally leader and teammate Sam Sunderland.

Most of the time lost was through navigation, as the Austrian was among many to lose precious minutes looking for the right path.

“It is strange. Sure, it can be hard and tricky, the navigation - but there has to be enough information,” Walkner told Motorsport.com.

“When you have a T-turn, it has to say 'left' and 'right', not 'go with what you think'. And today was the same.

“I never knew a rally that [the order] was changing like this. They lose 20 minutes, they get 20 minutes, they lose 20 minutes - [Joan] Barreda did two days perfect, today he lost like 40 minutes.

“There was, like, a really easy note, but it didn't say we had to leave the main road. And because there's so many crossings missing - and normally if a crossing is missing, you just stay on the main road... I do like that always - but at that note it didn't mean that.”

Walkner's complaint was echoed by both Laia Sanz and Barreda, the latter referring to a “a point incorrectly marked on the roadbook”.

Walkner also questioned the placement of a Way Point Control (WPC) – the Dakar Rally's new-for-2017 waypoint, aimed at creating a tougher navigational challenge.

“In the end it was a WPC and some riders caught it from the wrong direction,” he said. “It's also a really s**t thing for the safety - it was a long straight where you arrive like 150 [km/h] - can you imagine if some guys arrive from the wrong direction?”

Running order lottery

After Thursday's stage, Walkner's teammate Sunderland had cut a dejected figure, having been frustrated at time lost through navigation.

“It's a bit like [a lottery],” Sunderland agreed then. “It's always a bit like that, anyway - if you have a good start position, if the guy in front of you gets lost and then he finds the way as you arrive, you don't make the same mistake.”

His words were echoed by Husqvarna's Pablo Quintanilla on Friday, as he said: “Sometimes when you start in front, it's more difficult to catch a good way - but then you have the possibility to start at the back, it's more easy. It's like this, but it's okay.”

Walkner, meanwhile, suggested that the importance of the running order discouraged riders from running the best speed they could.

“At the moment, it looks like you just don't push so much, just go all the time around fifth - maybe it's the better way," he said.

“That's not what I want to do, I want to give all the day my best, push what I can do - but it looks like all pushing is for nothing. I don't know, now I lost so much [time], it's pretty bad.”

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