Toby Price Leads Battered Field For Second Dakar Rally Win
Never count out Toby Price, especially when it comes to rallies. The 2018 FIM World Cross-Country Rallies Champion and winner of the 2016 Dakar Rally came into the 41st Dakar Rally with a throttle-side wrist that had been surgically repaired last month. With this Dakar entirely in Peru over 10 stages, he knew he’d have to change his usual approach, letting others grab stage wins while he tried his best to keep up. But even he had his doubts.
“I thought I would only be able to do two stages and then pull out and that would’ve been me done, but the support from everyone back home in Australia and then having some things go my way and a bit of luck, it just worked out in the end,” Price said. “It’s been an unreal rally.”
Working somewhat in his favor was the fact that much of the race would take place in Peru’s huge sand dunes, though there was enough hardpack and rocks to wear on him every day.
He confided, “Pretty much all I can say is that it feels like there are about five people driving a knife in my wrist now. It’s not very comfortable, it’s not very enjoyable, but at the end of the day the victory has paid off. I’ll forget about the pain now, that’s for sure. The win takes away all the pain. I just don’t like giving up; I don’t like quitting, that’s for sure.”
Indeed, Price let others set the pace and take early glory with Monster Energy Honda Team’s Joan Barreda topping the first stage. In fact, this edition of Dakar likely saw a greater number of stage winners than usual, with defending champ Matthias Walkner (Price’s Red Bull KTM Factory Racing teammate), Yamalube Yamaha Rally team’s Xavier de Soultrait, American Ricky Brabec, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Sam Sunderland, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Pablo Quintanilla, and Sherco TVS Rally team’s Michael Metge all snapping up stage wins. Sunderland and Walkner were the only riders with multiple triumphs.
That also meant a number of different leaders with Monster Energy Honda Team’s Brabec moving into the top spot after stage 4—the first time an American had led Dakar since Danny LaPorte in 1992. Although he lost the lead the next day—not unexpected—Brabec went back to the top of the charts after finishing a calculated third in stage 7. Unfortunately for the two-time AMA National Hare & Hound champion, it all came undone with an engine failure on his works CRF450 Rally in stage 8, marking his second consecutive, disappointing DNF.
“It’s heart-wrenching. Not easy,” he said. “We have to go home, take a break, and come back. I’m at a loss for words. It was amazing to be on the top for the previous days. It felt like the vibes and the confidence in me [from the whole team] were good. That helped me to achieve so many great days.”
Third that day propelled Price to the top of the leaderboard for the first time, his lead over Quintanilla just over a minute. That held until the 10th and final stage. Quintanilla knew he had to go flat out on the comparatively short 70-kilometer special test while Price could afford to hang back a bit and just keep his Chilean rival in sight. But then the Husky FR 450 pilot misjudged a dune early in the stage and landed off it hard, suffering a foot injury. By the time he got going again, his chance of victory was gone. In fact, he slipped to fourth in the final standings behind Price, Walkner, and Sunderland.
After a learning experience in his first Dakar last year, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Andrew Short proved to have greatly improved his navigation and tactics. Opting to ease into the race, he improved steadily to end up fifth.
“It’s been a long two weeks and I’m over the moon with my fifth place in the overall standings,” Short said. “I entered this Dakar with more experience and having spent a good amount of time working hard to be better. I’m really happy it all worked out well for me this year. I knew what to expect and this made the whole race easier for me. I’m also happy because I managed to make some big improvements during the race and I think this also showed in my results. Making it to the end of this Dakar today has been the most rewarding part of the last two weeks. All the team worked really hard and this top-five result is the best reward for all their hard work.”
Three other Americans competed in their first Dakars on private teams with Garrett Poucher the best at 32nd; his Klymciw Racing teammate Skyler Howes was unable to finish after dislocating his shoulder during stage 6. Nathan Rafferty earned 50th in the final standings for the BAS Dakar Team.
|6||Xavier de Soultrait||Yamaha|
|7||Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo||Honda|
|10||Daniel Nosiglia Jager||Honda|